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Burgundy hit by ‘worst frost since 1981’

Burgundy's worst frost in more than 30 years in some areas may have already cut the potential size of the 2016 harvest, as 'stressed' producers seek to assess damage in their vineyards.

A severe frost swept across Burgundy vineyards on the night of 26 April, causing a ‘great deal of stress’ for winemakers, according to the Burgundy wine bureau (BIVB).

A spring freeze affected much of Europe this week, with April snow briefly seen in Champagne. There are concerns in several wine regions about potential damage to first buds, and early reports suggest the Loire was also hit badly.

In Burgundy, producers were still assessing the damage and more detailed reports should emerge in the next week.

‘Such a frost is unseen since 1981 and it could have consequences not only on the yields of the Burgundy 2016 harvest but also on the yields of 2017,’ Caroline Parent-Gros, of Domaine AF Gros in Pommard, told Decanter.com.

As with hailstorms, which have repeatedly hit Burgundy in recent years, the effects of frost can be patchy from vineyard to vineyard.

‘So far, we know that in the village of Pommard, 80% of regional appellation vineyards have been affected,’ said Parent-Gros. ‘The crus are also damaged and we already know that the quantities for the coming vintage will be very small.’

The BIVB emphasised that the impact was still not properly known, but it said there would clearly be ‘consequences’.

‘It is unusual for a weather event like this to affect such a wide area. The vines of Chablis, the Grand Auxerrois, the Côte de Nuits, the Côte de Beaune, and the Côte Chalonnaise were all touched to a greater or lesser extent. The Mâconnais [already hit by hail earlier this month] was hit by frosts on the morning of 28 April.

‘It is also unusual in that the plots and areas that are usually spared the frost were hit this time.

‘Outside of the Burgundy region, this cold spell affected a significant number of other winegrowing regions in both France and the rest of Europe.’

‘Mother nature decides’

Caroline Parent-Gros added, ‘Mother Nature decides; we have to live with that and this is the risk of our job.

‘But it is also a job of passion, and it is a big disappointment to see all our efforts to do the best to make great wines reduced to zero in one night.’

Champagne – ‘we are going to lose a bit of the harvest’

Frost also struck in Champagne this week. Producers reported temperatures of between minus one and minus two degrees centigrade.

‘I do not have statistics to report, but I know that with the cold weather and humidity, including some hail that followed, it is certainly probable that we are going to lose a bit of our harvest [this year],’ said Duval Leroy’s vineyard director, Eric Fournel.

Chardonnay was more vulnerable than Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, he said. Regions affected include Côte de Blancs, the Côte de Sézanne in the southern Marne, and l’Aube region.

Extra reporting from Champagne by Panos Kakaviatos. Image credit: @fredericbillet1 / Twitter



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