Winemakers in the Loire may request emergency government aid after becoming the latest French wine region to report that severe frost has jeopardised the 2016 harvest.

Severe frost in Loire vineyards

Parts of the Loire were very severely hit by frost during the night of Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April. Temperatures in a few places fell as low as -6˚C.

Several French wine regions have been affected by the cold weather, and Burgundy producers reported their worst frost since 1981 in some areas.

There are now serious concerns for the 2016 vintage, still in its infancy.

As in April 1991, Loire vineyards saw a lethal combination of damp ground from recent rain, clear overnight skies, very low temperatures in the latter part of the night and bright early morning sunshine that virtually destroyed the 2016 vintage in some areas.

Although it is too early to know the full extent of the damage, some parts of the Loire have been very badly hit. The worst hit areas appear to be Bourgueil, Montlouis, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Azay le Rideau and Touraine Noble. The important communes of Cravant-les-Coteaux and Panzoult in AOP Chinon are reported also badly affected.

Guillaume Lapaque, director of FAV37 wine association, told Decanter.com: ‘Noble Joué has lost 94% of this harvest, 70% in Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and 50% in Chinon. Overall, Touraine appellation has been much less affected.’

Sabine Corsin, of Syndicat de Montlouis, reported a 90% loss in Saint-Martin-le-Beau with 50% loss in the appellation’s other two communes. Losses in Vouvray are reported to be less overall and more variable.

In Saumur-Champigny the communes of Chacé, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg and Varrains have been badly hit. Closer to the Loire damage is much less. ‘We have lost 10%,’ said Florence Chevallier, of Château de Villeneuve.

‘We have been very badly hit in our vineyards which are close to the River Layon,” said Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau, Anjou). However, we have no damage in Savennières where our vines are on high ground.’

The picture in the Pays Nantais appears to be very variable. Domaine Luneau-Papin (Muscadet) has suffered damage in some parcels, while others haven’t been touched.

‘A third of my vines have been badly hit with up to 100% loss in some parcels, one third slightly affected and one third not touched at all,’ said Vincent Caillé, Domaine Faye d’Homme (Muscadet).

In the Central Loire Vineyards Benoît Roumet, the director of Les Vins du Centre, reports that Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fume Quincy and Reuilly have all been hit to a greater of lesser degree. Sancerre, in contrast, has largely escaped. However, Roumet cautions that things will be clearer next week.

Although this April frost may not be as extensive as that of 1991, wine stocks would have been much higher after the very good and generous 1990 vintage. Now stocks are low after four small to below average vintages.

Negotiations with government and banks to help to see badly hit producers through this crisis will start next week.