Vintage 2016: Awful news for winemakers in Burgundy and the Loire

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Frost, snow and ice are eagerly anticipated during the winter months. The extreme cold helps kill off any bugs that may be lurking around the vineyard and ensures that the vine is truly in its brief hibernation stage.

Winter 2015-6 has been exceptionally mild in France and, as a result, this year’s bud break was relatively early.

(N.B. This is supposedly due to long-term climate change and winemakers are expecting to see this occur more and more frequently.)

However, on the night of 26-27 April, temperatures got bitingly cold. Google gave me the temperature in Paris… but out in the French countryside, France profonde, it was even worse. The lowest temperature recorded was -6°C (21 Fahrenheit) in some parts, but -2 and -3 was widespread.

The problem is that once bud-break has occurred, the vines are exceptionally vulnerable and a hard frost at this stage is devastating. Unfortunately, the reason for this blog post is that Tuesday night saw the worst damages for 25 years and even the most conservative reports suggest that 50% has been wiped out.

The worst-hit vineyards are in the Loire Valley (especially Bourgueil, Chinon and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil) and Burgundy (Chablis and all the way through the prestigious Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune) but it is in no way limited to just those particular appellations.

Winemaker-friends-of-mine such as René Mosse (in Saint Lambert du Lattay, Anjou) announced that at least 80% of their 2016 production will have been lost as a result of this frost.

Thierry Puzelat (in Les Montils, between Touraine and Cheverny) added that his vineyards have been similarly affected.

Going west, 70% of Pascal Lambert’s vineyards (Chinon) have been hit.

Further afield, Frédéric Niger from Domaine de l’Écu (Muscadet) reports that some of his plots have been completely wiped out.

And so I could go on…

But, so as not to end this blog post with even more doom and gloom, the one bit of good news is that the Champagne region and the Loir-et-Cher seems to have very narrowly missed Tuesday’s wrath.

It’s not over though, because temperatures are due to stay worryingly low for the rest of the week. For winemakers in the northern half of France, it’s a nervous waiting game.

 

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5 thoughts on “Vintage 2016: Awful news for winemakers in Burgundy and the Loire

  1. I also saw that temperatures were hovering at freezing in Champagne this week, with the buds well and truly broken. I know from past experience how disheartening it can be, especially where growers (in whatever region) don’t have widely dispersed holdings – as with hail, the hedging of bets is impossible for these people. The very last thing anyone needs is yet another short harvest despite the touch of respite for some last year.

    Reading your comments, and those of some favourite growers above, is depressing. I know wine producers are prone to see the glass half empty when it comes to weather, but with frost, at this stage of the growing cycle, they have just cause.

    • Hi David, I agree with all the points you made. What is so demoralising about frost, hail etc is that there’s so little you can do, as a grower, in the face of such weather.
      Let’s just hope that we’ll get through to harvest without any hail and that insurance will kick in to cover some of their losses.

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