11 January 2008

Vous avez dit « pluie » ?

Betty C's comment on my last topic about how damp the Touraine climate is got me to thinking. So I did some research. I have long assumed a grape-growing area like ours would have to enjoy a relatively dry climate. But maybe not.

Rain in the vineyards around Saint-Aignan in January

I found a site that gives climate data for the largest French cities. I went through it and picked out 25 cities that are distributed all across and around France. Then I ranked them from driest (lowest annual precipitation) to wettest (highest annual precipitation). The rainfall figure is in millimeters first and then in inches.
01. Perpignan .... 572 mm ... 22.5"
02. Clermont ..... 591 mm ... 23.3"
03. Strasbourg ... 610 mm ... 24.0"
04. Reims ........ 611 mm ... 24.1"
05. Orléans ...... 637 mm ... 25.1"
06. Paris ........ 642 mm ... 25.3"
07. Rennes ....... 649 mm ... 25.6"
08. Toulouse ..... 656 mm ... 25.8"
09. Tours ........ 684 mm ... 26.9"
10. Lille ........ 687 mm ... 27.0"
11. Montpellier .. 699 mm ... 27.5"
12. Caen ......... 711 mm ... 28.0"
13. Dijon ........ 732 mm ... 28.8"
14. Romorantin ... 733 mm ... 28.9"
15. La Rochelle .. 755 mm ... 29.7"
16. Metz ......... 766 mm ... 30.2"
17. Nice ......... 767 mm ... 30.2"
18. Rouen ........ 785 mm ... 30.9"
19. Nantes ....... 789 mm ... 31.1"
20. Lyon ......... 825 mm ... 32.5"
21. Bordeaux ..... 923 mm ... 36.3"
22. Grenoble ..... 979 mm ... 38.5"
23. Limoges ..... 1023 mm ... 40.3"
24. Besançon .... 1108 mm ... 43.6"
25. Brest ....... 1109 mm ... 43.7"
I put Paris, Tours, and Romorantin in red because Paris is a point of reference and Tours and Romo are the cities that are closest to Saint-Aignan. Unfortunately, I didn't find any climate data for Rodez.

Saint-Aignan is closer to Romorantin than it is to Tours, so maybe our rainfall amounts are closer to Romo's too. That would make us even wetter compared to Paris. Orléans is much drier, and even drier than Paris.

I thought Paris would be closer in rainfall to Rouen. But I guess Rouen squeezes most of the rain out of the clouds before they ever make it to Paris. When I lived in Rouen all those years ago, people there used to say about their city's weather: "It doesn't rain much, but it rains all the time." Constant drizzle is what they meant.

It's surprising that Limoges is nearly as wet at Brest. And Besançon? I guess Limoges and Besançon are both on the west side of slopes where the rain gets wrung out of clouds coming in from lower altitudes.

It's not surprising to see that Brest, on the Atlantic in Brittany, gets so much rain. Nantes is also close the Atlantic and is wet too — do you know the late singer Barbara's song called Il pleut sur Nantes?

But then look at Lyon — it's rainier than Nantes and much rainier than Paris. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised the only time I ever went to Lyon that it rained all day, and it was a hard cold rain.

Actually, the rainiest city in France, according to the data I found, is Biarritz, on the southwest coast south of Bordeaux. Can you imagine that it gets 1483 mm of rain a year — 58.4 inches. And it's a big seaside resort. Bordeaux itself is pretty wet, so there goes the theory that grape-growing requires dry weather.

It's not surprising to see that Perpignan, on the Mediterranean, is so dry. Montpellier and Nice are much wetter. And who knew that Reims, Strasbourg, and Clermont-Ferrand were so dry?

I think the reason Paris always seemed so rainy to me was that when I lived there, I was always out and about on foot. My shoes and my head seemed to be wet all the time, and I often had a cold. Here in Saint-Aignan, I just don't go out in the rain unless I absolutely have too, and that's not often.


  1. I think part of the difference may come from that in some regions, when it rains, it rains a ton and then the storm moves on. Whereas here in Brittany, you have the impression that it's always raining because it's almost always gray and misting, even though the actual quantity of rain may not be that much.

    PS. I would much prefer for it to rain and ton and then be done with it. *S*

  2. I enjoy your "Today in France" news. I dislike commercials, but also hate those fundraisers that PBS does here.

    As for grapes, they must be adaptable and able to live with various amounts of rain. I was surprised at the different amounts of rain various areas of France receive.

    Thanks for keeping us informed.

  3. Here in the desert of southern California we do grow grapes, but these are table grapes. It is probably too dry for wine grapes. If you have ever drunk Taylor's wine from New York state (sorry Walt), you know they can grow vinegar directly on the vine. Virginia's Prince Michel (ha! ha!) is "du même tonneau".

  4. Let me say that there are some good wines produced in the NY Fingerlakes area, up the Hudson Valley, and on Long Island. We drank some when we were in Albany in 2006, in the spirit of enjoying "local" products. I enjoyed them.

  5. NY wines are really emerging. That can probably be said for most places. As we learn more about growing good wine, it will be easier to find the right places in almost any part of the world. Match the right grape to the right climate and soil and you can make decent wine.

    I do not know if you saw, Ken, but my wife and I will be spending our week in Paris and not in the Loire. Because of your blog, I really wanted to spend the week in the Loire, but I think I would try to do too much since it would be a new place for us. The point is a relaxing week in France just the two of us. No help from me on the ark.

    Dan M

  6. Hello Dan, well, CHM did specify Taylor wine. He's surely right about that (and he's a close friend of ours). I did see your plans on the forum, as you know. I think you made a good decision. In fact, I'd love to rent that apartment for a week for the same reasons -- I love that neighborhood. Save the Loire for another year.

  7. Talking about rain always brings London and the Englishman's umbrella to my mind. Never see one without the other...I thought it would be fun to look at the rainfall. It was a surprise! 752.1 mm(29.6) for London. 765.5mm (30.1) for Toronto. Maybe, as Samantha says, it's always gray and misty overthere, and sunnier overhere. I prefer that too!
    Ontario wines are also emerging... Yes! Yes! Yes!

  8. I've heard people in Rodez brag about Rodez being as sunny as Biarritz! Now I understand...

    Actually, I think they're talking about the number of sunny days, not total rainfall.

    I wonder where Rodez fits in? Did you happen to run into it? It probably isn't "major" enough.

  9. Hi Betty, I didn't find any climate data for Rodez on the site I referenced. But then I didn't find any for Marseille either. The sunniest town in France is Toulon, with 2899 annual hours of sunshine. Since Marseille is right next to Toulon, it must be similarly sunny.

    Maybe there's some data for Rodez on a different site. Météo France, maybe.

    Biarritz is up there with 1935 hours of sunshine, between Nantes and Clermont-Ferrand.


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