Severe frosts wreak havoc in Champagne

Temperatures plunged to -6 degrees in Champagne this week where severe spring frosts have wiped out entire crops of young buds in some parts of the region.

A bud enrobed in ice – one of the methods winegrowers use to protect buds from frost. Photo credit: Champagne Tornay

The mercury also dipped to dangerous levels in Burgundy and the Loire Valley the night of Wednesday 19 April, but Champagne appears to have been the worst hit.

The Côte des Bar in Aube bore the brunt of the damage, where reserves are already at an all-time low due to similar frost problems last year. reports that small grower Olivier Horiot lost 50% of his crop in Les Riceys to the frosts.

“Temperatures dropped to -6 degrees and remained this low for most of the night. This combination of prolonged severe frosts is fatal for the young buds,” Horiot said.

“The frosts aren’t later than they traditionally have been, but the mild weather in March has caused the vines to develop earlier than in the past,” he added.

A new wave of frosts could damage the second-generation bud development, which would mean no fruit on the affected vines.

Benoit Tarlant of Champagne Tarlant in Oeuilly calculates a potential 70% loss of the house’s 2017 vintage, with almost its entire Chardonnay crop having been wiped out.

According to Johann Merle, vineyard director at Champagne Roederer, estimates the house has lost 23% of its 2017 vintage in the Côte des Blancs, 35-40% in the Montagne de Reims and 15-20% in the Vallée de la Marne.

Temperatures also dipped below freezing during the night of Thursday 20 April.

9 Responses to “Severe frosts wreak havoc in Champagne”

  1. Wink Lorch says:

    This is not only a disaster in Champagne. Jura lovers will be disappointed to know that there has been widespread damage across the whole region too – estimates are at least 45% damage on average, some growers are hit much worse – with low stocks in the cellars after several difficult years in terms of volume and good sales figures, this is a real tragedy. Bugey (especially Cerdon) and Savoie are also badly hit in parts. I’ve read that Chablis, parts of the Loira and even the Languedoc have suffered and this is just France… I think other countries have problems too.

    In most regions, three very cold nights in a row have followed several weeks of warm weather leaving the vine development 3 weeks ahead of average.

  2. Charles says:

    These percentage losses tend to be over stated. I am sure there has been damage and the 2017 crop will be smaller as a result however the daamage will doubtless vary from village to village and the 2nd budding may make up a good part of the initial loss. Most Champagne is non vintage and a far better guide as to any effect on the market will be to look at the multiple of stock cover to annual sales.

    • Burgpoodle says:

      Charles, you are unfortunately taking an over simplistic view of the problem. If a grower’s vines are hit by frost, that has a direct impact on his / her production capabilities. They cannot resort to buying in grapes from another district to compensate in the same way as a house can. Lucy’s article does focus more on the issue facing growers, who will be the most affected. And besides, although reserve wines can be drawn on for a n/v blend, if these reserves have alreay been severely depleted due to the 2016 frosts (as in the Côte des Bars) this will only add to the difficulties. I think you under-estimating what a severe problem this can pose for many producers.

  3. Tom Stevenson says:

    Thanks for the update Wink … very useful.

  4. Severe damage due to frost in vineyards of Mosel and other German regions, too.

  5. Michela says:

    Severe damages in Friuli/Veneto areas in Italy too.

  6. Mario Goldbrich says:

    We have damages due to frost also in Austria.
    Last night 20.4.- 21.4. temperatures were down to -6C.
    We have the same Problem as in France the mild March lead to an early start – 2-3 weeks too early.

  7. Brent says:

    Very sorry to hear this news from Europe. Best wishes to all those affected

  8. Ing.(oeno) Großinger Roland says:

    It is the same in Austria, inthe regions of Styria, S-Burgenland and somewhere in Wachau an Lower Austria. The damages goes from 50 to 100 %. Damn it, it`s like the last year!
    Großinger Roland Oenologe

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