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French winegrowers struggle with weather

Severe weather events in France have made it a challenging start to the 2024 growing season as the majority of the country’s wine regions hit with difficult conditions.

Alongside the hailstorms in Chablis, other areas including Cahors, the Jura, and Bergerac were hit with frosts that have caused significant issues throughout spring.

In Cahors especially, it was reported that as much as 80% of the region’s harvest could be lost due to frost.

Speaking to the Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of the French parliament, Aurélien Pradié, who represents the first constituency of the Lot department, said that frost threatens “the survival of vineyards in the Cahors appellation”.

A similar situation has also been reported in other areas, including the Jura, where some producers have also stated they have lost as much as 60 to 70% of their harvest already, following bitterly cold periods across April and early May — and despite the use of anti-frost candles to try and save grapes.

It comes as previous vintages, including in 2017, 2022 and last year, as well as in other recent years, have caused grape-growers and wine producers to consider the viability of some vineyards against increasingly challenging conditions. One regional prefect told a local assembly that four frost attacks in an eight year period were “starting to take its toll” on the profession.

Mildew

In addition, the impact of heavy rainfall, which has also hit other wine-growing regions including the UK and Germany, have been considerable in Beaujolais and Burgundy, with the threat of mildew, which caused major issues in 2023, could happen again across the late spring and early summer months.

Last year, mildew had a devastating impact on growers, with a helpline even set up to help those who had been “traumatised” by the situation.

Wet weather has also impacted other grape-growing regions across the country with reports that the start of the growing season has been particularly hard.

In some areas, rainfall has been more than 40mm per day, consistently over a number of days and weeks, with mildew spots appearing on leaves, and spraying challenging due to the consistently inclement conditions.

This has also impacted the ability of farm machinery to operate in muddy and sodden vineyards, with producers stating it was difficult to even get tractors into the vineyards.

But other producers have said that the rain has resulted in water reserves in the ground, which going into the summer season could be beneficial for the crops, depending on what happens in the next few months in terms of temperature, rain and general climatic conditions.

The CIVC has reported that Champagne yields will be hit by the frosts although not as dramatically as in other regions, estimating it will lose around 9% of primary buds across the whole appellation, according to reports, and which is well below the 2021 events and loses of 30% when frost hit the region.

Chablis

The news comes as the BIVB confirmed that around 1,000 hectares of vines were affected in Chablis, around a sixth of the appellation, and which covers approximately 5,800 hectares and comprises 20 village communes.

Les climats de Chablis grand cru Vaumur, Vaudésir, Moutonne et Preuses étaient considérés comme faisant partie des sites les plus touchés, a indiqué le BIVB lorsque la grêle a frappé, mais les villages de Fontenay-près-Chablis, Villy et La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne ont subi les dégâts les plus importants. Des dégâts ont également été constatés à Chablis, Maligny, Beine et Lignorelles, et certains climats de Chablis Grand Cru et Chablis Premier Cru ont également été touchés.

On estime qu'environ 400 ha de vignes ont été touchés par des pertes de plus de 80 %, a indiqué la Commission, bien que les dégâts soient "ultra-localisés".

Selon certaines informations, des grêlons de la taille d'une boule de pétanque ont ravagé les vignobles en quelques minutes le 1er mai, lorsqu'une "supercellule" violette s'est abattue sur la région. L'orage a endommagé les sarments et effeuillé les vignes, les rendant vulnérables au mildiou, surtout avec l'humidité supplémentaire du sol. Il a fallu attendre quelques semaines pour voir comment les vignes se sont rétablies.

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