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Why Bordeaux wine is under threat in France this year

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
Why Bordeaux wine is under threat in France this year
Work to uproot uncultivated vines in the Bordeaux wine region. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Winemakers in the famous French Bordeaux wine region fear the weather conditions this spring may lead to a disastrous harvest.

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It’s the second year in a row that mildew has threatened Bordeaux vines. Around 90 percent of vineyards were affected by mildew to some extent in 2023, according to the regional chamber of agriculture.

But this year, the fungus has appeared earlier than usual. “If the weather continues, it’s going to be a disaster,” one vineyard owner told regional newspaper Sud Ouest, as mildew threatens crops. “I’ve never seen mildew strike so early.”

In its latest plant bulletin, the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture underlines the “favourable climatic conditions for [mildew] development” and is pessimistic for the coming days, fearing an increase in potential risk.

In the end, the 2023 harvest was reasonable, helped by favourable August weather – though a heatwave towards the end of the month raised concerns over working conditions.

READ MORE: France to revise its Champagne-making area due to climate change

But last year’s outbreak and the weather so far in 2024 has brought the ‘mildew season’ forward in parts of the region. The Grand Libournais and Graves winegrowing areas are particularly affected, according to May’s Bulletin de Santé du Végétal for Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Winegrowers in the Blayais region, meanwhile, have noticed that mildew spread is erratic – but the expected return of rainy conditions in the early part of next week have prompted concerns that the fungus’s spread will only increase.

“There are abandoned plots, neighbours who haven't pruned their vines or estates that have been unable to carry out an uprooting program because of the incessant rain,” one vineyard owner said.

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Official figures suggest that some 2,000 hectares of vines are uncultivated in the Gironde alone. The Fédération Départementale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles insists that the real figure is much larger – with implications for the health of neighbouring cultivated vines.

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