Languedoc reports ‘promise of a great vintage’ after fatal flash floods

Workers in the Languedoc feel a sense of “solidarity” as deadly flash floods marked a bittersweet end to the harvest season.

 

Despite adverse weather towards the end of the season, the Languedoc harvest was “excellent with a good quality crops, bringing 2018 in line with previous years and the promise of a great vintage,” the consortium said.

“It is a very good year for most of the wine regions with magnificent grapes in all the appellations”, Miren de Lorgeril, chair of the AOC Languedoc Wine and PGI Sud de France marketing board, said.

However the volume of rainfall in the spring resulted in the spread of downy mildew in some parts of Languedoc, which she said would impact production for “appellations with a high level of commitment to organic farming, particularly Faugères and Saint Chinian.” These, she said, were likely to have lower yields this year as a result of disease.

Wine production in the area, she said, is “now back in line with national average,” after two drier seasons in 2016 and 2017 left winemakers with lower yields.

The news comes after deadly flash floods marked the end of the region’s harvest season, killing at least 10 people and causing devastation to homes and vineyards.

The Aude department was hardest hit, and the largest number of victims were in Trèbes, near Carcassonne, where floodwater was as high as eight metres, with the equivalent of up to four months of rain falling in just six hours.

The floods are the worst the Aude river has seen in more than 100 years, according to the weather monitoring service Vigicrues, with seven helicopters and 700 emergency service workers deployed to help in the rescue efforts.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged €80m in aid to support those affected by the disaster. While the damage caused to vineyards is still being assessed, it occurred at a time when the vast majority of producers in the region had already completed harvest.

Winemakers at work near Aude, one of the areas hardest-hit by flooding. (Photo: Edith Hancock)

During a tour of Paul Mas’ wineries in the region last week, the company’s winemaker Bastien Laluze said locals in the industry felt a combination of “sadness and solidarity” after the flooding.

“We were quite lucky,” he said, “but some people have lost everything.”

Whilst the adverse weather conditions had no impact on the 2018 vintage, several estates are now faced with the task of lifting uprooted trees and machinery from their vineyards and making them fit for purpose again, particularly in Cabardès and the Minervois.

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