French winegrowers take stock after frost: ‘thousands of hectares lost’

Farmers in various French wine regions, from Bordeaux to Champagne, are concerned about their grape harvest after several nights of exceptional frost. The French authorities have identified the period of frost as an agricultural disaster and are preparing an emergency package.

In some wine regions, the temperature dropped to a record low in the nights of 6, 7 and 8 April. Thus, the mercury in Languedoc in southern France fell to -8 degrees Celsius. In other places, for example in Burgundy, it became between -4 and -5.

The late frost has “dramatic consequences”, says winemaker Jérôme Despey in the southern French department of Hérault. According to him, the temperature has been devastating before his harvest.

Despey, also Secretary-General of France‘s largest peasant union, has called on the government to take action in all sectors affected. Also, peach, nectarine and apricot trees are affected by the cold.

Lost harvest

Experts estimate that the damage to farmers is the greatest in decades. And regional agricultural authorities fear a loss of 50 to 90 percent of the grape harvest.

A winemaker in Burgundy, the region known for white wine, estimates that at least 50 percent of the harvest has been lost, writes The Guardian. Winemaker Philippe Pellaton in the Rhône Valley speaks of the smallest harvest in 40 years; he fears losses of 80 to 90 percent.

Ten French regions were affected by the monarch, said French Prime Minister Castex this morning when visiting a winegrower in the Ardèche. He promised that ‘exceptional sums will be earmarked for affected farmers.

According to Minister of Agriculture Denormandy, hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been affected. Because of this “agricultural disaster”, he promised an emergency package for affected farmers. This would include tax advantages. The Minister also called on banks and insurers to make a contribution.

Over the past few nights, winegrowers have tried everything to protect their crops from the cold. Some of them befell the vines, forming a layer of ice around the plants.

In the Chablis wine region, farmers put burning torches, straw bales and wood baskets in their vineyards to prevent the buds froze:

Despite the measures taken, many plants frozen and dried out. “It breaks like glass because there is no water left in it,” said winemaker Dominique Guignard to The Guardian.

And after several hours in the sun, the buds and leaves turned gray: