“Vintage 2017 Report” Or “How To Protect Against Frost”

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It’s becoming an all-too-familiar scenario: a beautiful springtime with plenty of warm sunshine but followed by a sudden dip and freezing temperatures.

A cold winter does marvels for the vineyard but once bud-burst has taken place, a cold snap can have catastrophic results.

You may remember that I wrote about this already in 2016.

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

Vintage 2016: Disaster strikes again in Burgundy

In the Loire Valley, “at least 50%” of the 2016 production was lost due to frost. (info-tours.fr)

Unfortunately, 2017 has already hit hard. Loire, Burgundy, Champagne, Beaujolais… areas which are already fragile after successive poor harvests have been struck again.

Nicolas Reau (Anjou) reported this morning (on Facebook) that last night’s frost has caused him to lose 80% of his crop.

Benoit Tarlant (Champagne), similarly, has lost all of his chardonnay in the area around in village of Oeuilly.

They are far from being the only ones affected.  Continue reading

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In The Vineyards With: Isabelle & Jean-Yves Vantey (Les Rouges Queues, Maranges, Burgundy)

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It was on one distinctly grey and damp afternoon in late January that our car wound its way through the vineyards of Burgundy, up towards the small area of Maranges, just south of Beaune.

I was with two of the Maule brothers (producers of natural wine in the Veneto) accompanying them as a translator and willing drinking companion on a short road trip through France.

Maranges is one of the lesser known appellations in Burgundy. Strictly speaking, it’s a Village Appellation in the southernmost point of the Côte de Beaune, and within it are 7 Premier Crus. (These 7 climats are: Clos de la Boutière, Clos de la Fussière, La Fussière, Le Clos des Loyères, Le Clos des Rois, Le Croix Moines, Les Clos Roussots.) Continue reading

The Italian Job

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It’s been a remarkably busy week. It’s the case for many people across Europe as they come back from holidays and go back to their office jobs. I always quite like this time of year because it’s full of good energy and many new projects are undertaken.

It’s a stressful week if you’re a winemaker because you’re carefully watching the weather and judging when to start the grape harvest. 2016 has been a disastrous year in France and I think most vignerons are just happy to have made it to the finish line. In Italy, however, it’s been a very hot and dry summer and it’s shaping up to be one of the best vintages of the decade.

For me personally, it was the week that I finally packed up the car and rode off into the sunset…

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Well… except, in my case, riding off into the sunset means crossing the border between France and Italy. Continue reading

Vintage 2016: Disaster strikes again in Burgundy

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It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, as they say. However, for many vignerons in northern parts of Burgundy, the actress has finished her warm-up in the wings and is about to bring the curtain down on the 2016 vintage.


AWFUL NEWS FOR WINEMAKERS IN BURGUNDY AND THE LOIRE – extract from blog entry 28th April 2016.

Tuesday night [26 April] 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.


We saw a fair share of hail in 2015 (in parts of Burgundy and Alsace, as well in areas of northern Italy) but the devastation was nowhere to this extent. 2016 is sure to go down in history as one of the worst years on record.

Friday 27th May saw a heavy hail storm pass through the areas of Chablis, Chitry and Saint Bris (northern Burgundy), ravaging the recovering vines.

Patrick Chalmeau (Chitry) speaking to a local journalist said: “as it stands right now, we won’t be making even a litre of wine this year.” Continue reading

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.