Frost alerts in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is bracing itself to assess potential frost damage after temperatures plunged last night and are expected to do so again tonight.

Buds in Bordeaux. Photo: Gavin Quinney

In his weekly newsletter, ex-pat winemaker Gavin Quinney described the recent cold snap as “squeaky bum time”* as he and other growers waited for it to pass in order to judge what any damage is.

He wrote: “There was a heavy frost here early this morning, with temperatures plunging below -2°C. The sun is shining now and it’s too early to assess the extent of the damage.”

As he continued, the new buds which are beginning to appear are particularly vulnerable to intense old although different varieties and plots will be affected differently depending on whether they are early or late budding and if they were sheltered or not by their exposure and micro climate.

Speaking to local paper Sud-Ouest, one grower said they all had their “fingers crossed”.

Frosts have already wreaked significant damage in Champagne this year and producers across much of France and indeed, northern Italy, Austria and Germany have reported widespread damage, exacerbated in many cases by a mild winter and warm spring which means many vines are two to three weeks ahead of where they were in their growth cycle at this time last year.

Bordeaux largely escaped devastating frosts which struck the Loire, Champagne and Burgundy in 2016.

Around 1,000 hectares in Blaye, Castillon, parts of the Médoc and Saint Emilion were hit by a freeze on 21 April as well.


*An ancient English idiom expressing either unease or intense excitement with a given situation.

3 Responses to “Frost alerts in Bordeaux”

  1. Charles says:

    I can almost read tomorrow’s headlines now, ‘Bordeaux devastated by frosts, 80% of the crop wiped out’ then fast forward to October, ‘Bordeaux records a record harvest’.

    Sorry but too many ‘wolf, wolf’ frost scares in the past make me sceptical. I am sure there will be some damage but hopefully it will be minimal and widespread and any second budding will cover much of the potential loss.

  2. GUILLEMET says:

    Sorry Charles, you’re wrong. Unlike some French Hybrids’, Vinifera secondaries buds don’t bear much yield (cf. 1991 !). On the other hand, this cold spell will probably mean some delay for the vegetative cycle, which is no good news. Of course, the vineyards which won’t have suffered keep all the 2017 vintage potential.

  3. Bernardot says:

    To allay your scepticism Charles, I am a small producer in Médoc and along with closest neighbours lost 100% of Merlot shoots and developing grapes on the night of the 27th. Still waiting to see full extent of damage to Cabernet, looks like 60-80% for me.Having driven from Médoc to Saint Emillion today, I can tell you the damage is very significant in many, many parcels, countless hectares of ‘burnt’ dying growth. As Guillemet says, the secondary budding is of little comfort, the new growth is distorted and difficult to manage after frost and the yield insignificant to what was lost…and that’s provided it ripens in time for a harvest.

    I can’t say if 80% in Bordeaux is accurate but it certainly looks pretty devastating from where I am.

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