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Burgundy 2021: winegrowers hold breath over final yields

The 2021 harvest is underway in Burgundy, but the region’s wineproducers are holding their breath as to the final yields following a year of severe weather challenges.

According to Vins de Bourgogne, the 2021 harvest started around 18-20 September, as anticipated when producers started their earliest plots. However news reports across France are reporting that winegrowers  are not finding many pickable grapes left, due to the perfect storm of weather events during the growing season.

As previously reported by the drinks business, French wine producers are expected to produce nearly a third of their usual wine output this year, down 29% on the 2020 figure.  Burgundy one of the most severely hit regions,  with yields expected to be be around 47% lower than last year as a result of frost and hail affecting the harvest.

The growing season in Burgundy started relatively well, with warmth in early Spring prompting early growth, however temperatures plummeted in early April, to -7 in places, causing widespread damage to the budding vines, particularly to Chardonnay.

High temperatures in June helped to trigger faster growth, with ‘perfect’ conditions for flowering, pollination and fruit formation making up for the some of the lost time – but some vineyards were subsequently affected by hail in late June.

Rainfall and temperature throughout the first half of the year were fairly average, apart from in  Yonne in northwest Burgundy, which saw rainfall up 18%. However, there was a shift at the end of June, and rain set in for much of July and August, making it difficult for winegrowers to manage the vegetation at the same time as staving off disease.

It wasn’t until mid-August that sustained dry weather finally arrived, reducing disease-inducing humidity and allowing the berries to change colour (véraison) and ripen steadily, Vins de Bourgogne said.  Pinot Noir, Gamay, and César were the first to ripen, although the stress caused by hail and frost on white Chardonnay meant these took longer to ripen than usual.

Wine-growers are hoping that the good weather in August will boost quality in what will otherwise be a very challenging vintage.

François Labet, president of the Interprofessional Bureau of Burgundy Wines (BIVB) told Euronews that “the yields are historically low”, adding that overall losses were between 30% and 50%, although there was big variation in different areas, with up to 80% losses for the whites of the Côte de Beaune and -50% in the Chablis and the Mâconnais.

Thiébault Huber, president of the Confederation of appellations and winegrowers of Burgundy (CAVB) told Euronews that “We are going to make the smallest vintage that Burgundy has ever made”.

According to France’s largest agricultural union, Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA) the spring frosts could cost the industry as much as €2 billion due to the damage done to budding vines.

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