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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.

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