A spring frost overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, April 20, has devastated large parts of this year’s wine harvest. Particularly hard hit have been Champagne, Burgundy and Languedoc. Many growers are close to despair, because even if some of their crops survive, their vineyards cease to break even.
While last year late frosts had an impact on central France and the Loire, this year entire regions have been affected. Unseasonably warm weather earlier in the month had encouraged buds to appear prematurely, making the problem worse, according to wine professionals.
Also last year, mildew was a particular problem for wine growers, and yields of white wine have been depressed over several seasons. Now the frosts have added to the toll.
When temperatures drop to -2°C or below, damage can be widespread, and there is little that the vineyards can do to protect their crops. In Burgundy, where late frosts are more common, growers employ a range of measures such as lighting paraffin candles or using oil heaters every ten metre, for example. But if the wind rises, these effects are for nought.
The full extent of the damage to the 2017 vintage will become clearer over the next few days.