The frost affected 80% of the vineyards of the main French wine regions, according to the European Committee of Wine Companies. “This is expected to cause yield loss ranging from 25% to 50% in some areas,” the trade body told CNN Business on Wednesday.
The destruction spread across the Rhône Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Provence and the Loire Valley, said Anne Colombo, president of the Cornas appellation, a wine region in the Rhône region.
“In some regions there will be very, very few grapes [this year]She said, adding that the frost in Cornas is the worst in more than half a century.
Winemakers tried to maintain the air temperature by lighting candles and braziers in their vineyards, but in many cases this was not enough to protect their budding vines.
“A significant part of the harvest has been lost. It is too early to give an estimate in percentage, but in any case it is a tragedy for the winegrowers who have been affected”, declared Christophe Château, director of communication at Bordeaux Wine Council.
The frost also threatens other crops, including beet and rapeseed, according to the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions. “The anguish is immense in the vineyards, orchards and fields,” the organization said in a statement last week.
The French Ministry of Agriculture and Food activated its “agricultural calamities” program last week, triggering tax breaks and other financial support measures for farmers. Government officials on Monday held an emergency meeting with bankers, insurers and representatives of the agricultural sector to identify additional support mechanisms.
Exports of French wines and spirits fell nearly 14% to 12.1 billion euros ($ 14.5 billion) in 2020, with sales to the United States falling 18%, according to the Federation of Exporters of wines and spirits from France.
Winegrowers grappling with the climate crisis
The frost was particularly damaging for the winegrowers as it was preceded by exceptionally warm temperatures, which allowed the vines to grow faster and earlier than usual, making them more sensitive to the cold.
Temperatures in the Champagne region have dropped from nearly 26 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) to around minus 6 (22 degrees Fahrenheit) in less than a week. “Although temperatures are closer to normal now, another cold outbreak is on the way,” Myers said.
“Now we are harvesting in the first week of September and [20 years ago] it was the last week of September, ”she said.
The National Federation of Farmers Unions said the episode is a “stark reminder” of the importance of preventive measures and “of a risk management regime that responds to the climate challenge”.
– Elena Pompei, Antonella Francini, Barbara Wojazer and Judson Jones contributed reportingg.