Frost-bitten Bordeaux wine harvest shrinks by 40 percent

Wine production in the French region of Bordeaux shrank by 40 percent in 2017, the Bordeaux wine council said Wednesday, with severe frost sapping yields in a year that nonetheless produced a good vintage.

Frost-bitten Bordeaux wine harvest shrinks by 40 percent
Photo: AFP
“The total harvest in 2017 was 3.5 million hectolitres, down 40 percent on 2016,” the council said, adding that vineyards in Saint-Emilion had been the worst affected. 
Some chateaux in France's biggest wine-growing area had lost 80-90 percent of their harvest while others had lost none, the council added.
The final figures will be published in February. They are expected to show that 2017 produced France's worst wine harvest since 1945.

Just how bad is France's wine shortage going to get?Photo: AFP   

Vineyards found themselves coated in late frosts twice at the end of April, ravaging the fragile shoots and buds that emerged prematurely following an unusually mild March.
To try warm the vines, some producers in Bordeaux set fires in oil drums and placed them between the rows of budding grapevines.
Vines in the northeastern region of Alsace, which produces mainly white wines, were also hit by the frost, while those in the south were slaked by thirst after an exceptionally dry summer.
There was a silver lining in the cloud, however. While quantity was down, quality was up, meaning more enjoyment per bottle.


Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts