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

To save their harvests from the sudden frost, winemakers in France appear to have set their fields on fire.

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts
Anti-frost candles burn at the Daniel-Etienne Defaix wine estate vineyard near Chablis, Burgundy, on April 7th. Photo: Jeff PACHOUD / AFP

In fact the beautiful images are of thousands of “crop candles”, lit by French winemakers in a bid save their vines from the plunging temperatures, overnight freezes and even snow.

The flames came from large-sized cans of burning paraffin placed close to the vines to keep them warm.

From Chablis to Champagne, even in the south west around Bordeaux, a biting cold has seen the temperatures fall below 0C.

Seen from above, it looked like the whole fields were on fire. 

“We put around 1,000 candles on three hectares, but we decided not to light them overnight from Monday to Tuesday,” winemaker Claire Lelais in the south of Sarthe, north west France, told the French news site

“It was cold, but there wasn’t too much humidity.”

A winegrower from the Daniel-Etienne Defaix wine estate near Chablis, Burgundy. Photo: JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

At a price of €10 per candle, she explained that they were unable to protect the whole 350-400 hectares of their fields.

Freezing vines. Photo: Jeff PACHOUD / AFP 

But the next night, “the buds were going to be covered with ice,” she said, so they ignited the fires.

“We will know in a few days if it worked,” Lelais said.

READ ALSO: How to choose a good bottle of wine in a French supermarket


In Champagne, further north, winemaker Basile Pauthier, had spent several nights outside trying to rescue his harvest from the cold.

“Those with Pinot Meunier will be most spared,” he told the wine magazine Vitisphere on Wednesday, explaining that this grape variety was “later than Pinot Noir and especially Chardonnay ”

Pauthier, who also heads the wine projects at the Comité Interprofessionnel de Champagne (CIVC), said he worried most about the areas specialising in white wine.

QUIZ: Are you a connoisseur of French beers, wines and spirits?

Thursday was set to be another night of freezing temperatures, and “the worst night” for wine makers in the south, according to Vitisphere.

Member comments

  1. Does this really work outside? I have an egloo candle (three tealight candles with a ceramic bowl covering it) and this raises the temperature inside by 2 or on a good day three degrees if I keep doors closed in a 10m2 isolated room. Outside you would think the heat just raises up? It is not that those candles are placed close together……. ???? Still looks pretty from the sky!

  2. This morning on the autoroute A11 near Ancenis there was a 15 vehicle crash caused by smoke from a vine owner. The autoroute was closed in both directions .
    I went through this area 10 minutes before this accident and the visibilty was zero in a matter of moments.
    Bright sunshine and drifted smoke.

    So who is liable ?

    Quatre carambolages simultanés sur l’autoroute A11, au niveau de l’aire de Varades, à Loireauxence (Loire-Atlantique), ce jeudi 8 avril, vers 8 h 20. Le quadruple accident, deux dans chaque sens, a impliqué quinze véhicules dont deux poids lourds. Il serait dû à une visibilité quasi-nulle. Parmi ces quinze véhicules, dix n’étaient plus en état de rouler.
    extract from Ouest France news

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Bikes, gig tickets and holidays: Seven things the French government might pay for

Living in France does have its drawbacks, among them a hefty tax bill for most people. But there are also plenty of perks, including the free stuff that the French government give you. Here's a roundup of just some of the things that you may be entitled to claim.

Bikes, gig tickets and holidays: Seven things the French government might pay for
The French government might pay for both your bike and your cycling holiday. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP


If you’re a teenager, the government could be funding your books, films, music or video games, thanks to the new culture pass.

President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this year that teenagers in France will receive €300 when they turn 18 to spend on as they like on cultural products such as books, video games or festival tickets.

Full details of the pass culture are available HERE.

Holiday vouchers

Based on the notion that holidays are essential, the French holiday voucher system – known as chèques vacances – was launched in 1982 by then-President Francois Mitterrand. Millions have benefited from the scheme ever since.

Run by the Agence nationale des chèques-vacances (ANCV) the scheme offers help with paying for holidays for four main groups; young adults, people with disabilities, older people and families, especially single-parent families.

One such scheme, Départ 18:25 was launched in 2014 to help 18-25-year-olds have a summer vacation, providing vouchers that cover up to 75 percent of reservation costs (capped at €200).

Beneficiaries can choose between 10,000 destinations across France and internationally, with reservations made through the Les Stations sites. The site allows visitors to test their eligibility and simulate the total cost of trips taking the ANVC voucher into account.  

This particular scheme scheme is open to French residents aged 18-25 making a net salary of less than €17,280 per year.

It’s also open to students working on apprenticeships, civic service volunteers, those benefiting from special aid contracts (often given to handicapped people, for example), “second-chance” schools that offer another shot to those that had difficulties in school, beneficiaries of the Youth Guarantee initiative and those receiving social aid within their families. 

ANCV also offers a holiday voucher scheme for small businesses

Spa treatments

Yep, really. If you’re registered in the French health system and hold a carte vitale you might be able to get a cure thermale (treatment at a spa) on prescription – and have all or part of the cost of the stay reimbursed by l’Assurance Maladie.

The health system has tightened up the rules on this a bit recently so unfortunately it’s no longer possible to argue that you’re tired and stressed and really fancy a spa day. There are now 12 eligible categories listed by the health service, which includes digestive disorders, skin conditions, gynecological issues and rheumatism. 

It must also be prescribed by a GP or specialist.

READ ALSO Five surprising things available on your French health insurance

Language classes or driving lessons

If you’re an employee in France the government has earmarked up to €800 a year for you to spend on training. This is for your further professional development so can include vocational training or language classes or driving lessons.

The self-employed, too, can access the compte personnel de formation (CPF) by paying into the scheme via their social charges.

The money is available by setting up and accessing a personal online account and can be used to finance any approved training relevant to your work, including:

  • Additional qualifications
  • Skills training
  • Skills assessment
  • Driver’s licence
  • Setting up a business
  • Training needed for people volunteering or working in civil service
  • French language courses are accepted for foreign employees and if you need to drive for your work you can claim the cost of driving lessons and tests.

Cross-border Covid tests

France will reimburse its residents (who are registered in the French health sytem) who have to get Covid-19 tests while travelling in the EU for costs up to €50. 

Anyone who has to get a PCR or antigen test for medical reasons (presence of Covid-19 symptoms) or administrative reasons (when they are mandatory to enter or leave an EU state), will be able to claim back money up to €50.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of the cost of tests taken outside of the EU is covered – but only if it is taken for medical reasons, not just to get back across the border.

Home improvements

If you’re planning some building work then think about energy efficiency – if the work you are planning will make your home more energy efficient then the government might help you with the costs.

A scheme for €1 home insulation and boiler replacement schemes will end on July 1st, six months earlier than planned. 

But other government grants and help are still available through the MaPrimeRénov website.

These grants have replaced income tax credits which used to be offered for eco-friendly home improvement work.

An electric bike

Propelled by a combination of people abandoning public transport during the pandemic and government financial aid, the market for bicycles jumped in 2020 by 25 percent, according to Union Sport & Cycle. 

More than 500,000 new electric bikes hit the streets in 2020 – a year-on-year rise in sales of 29 percent, meaning one in five new bikes on French roads are electric.

That jump is set to continue after MPs voted in April 2021 in favour of a measures to encourage people to buy bicycles as part of the new Climate Bill.

The amendments include incentives – similar to the bonuses available for swapping an older car for an electric or hybrid vehicle – for anyone who wants to swap a polluting vehicle for an electric bike.

Grants of up to €1,000 are available for buying a new electric bike – details here – while you can also claim up to €50 towards the cost of bike repairs, and several local authorities including those in Paris are offering their own incentives to cyclists.