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Fire in Languedoc: Flames scorch Corbières vines

A fierce forest fire in France's Languedoc has damaged grapes on the eve of harvest amid reports of charred animals found in the vineyards.

[Image credit: @GaetenHeymes]

In brief

  • Fire in Corbières burns through 1,200 hectares of land

  • Some vineyards damaged as flames singe grapes and lead to smoke taint fears

  • ‘Wild boars caught fire and spread the fire by fleeing’

  • Full damage assessment still underway

Full story

A dry year year in Languedoc-Roussillon turned to a nightmare for some as a forest fire in Corbières hinterland spread to nearby vineyards on the eve of harvest.

Fire destroyed everything in its path and devastated the slopes of Mont Tauch.

At least 250 firefighters battled the flames, which were first detected on Monday afternoon (5 September) in the commune of Paziols and Tuchan in the Aude area, according to L’Independant newspaper.

‘Wild boars caught fire and spread the fire by fleeing,’ Bruno Schenck, of Domaine du Grand Arc, told Decanter.com.

Winemakers found charred sheep in the middle of vineyards.

It came less than two weeks after hail decimated vineyards in the Pic-St-Loup area of Languedoc near to Montpellier.

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Some vineyard properties saw at least some damage on up to 50% of their vines, with co-operatives the worst affected.

Smoke taint is also a concern for producers.

‘I picked up my burnt parcel of white grapes and I’ll try to make wine,’ Schenck told Decanter.com over the noise of a horizontal press.

‘But I’m afraid the smoked flavour is persistent.’

The fire spread over nearly 1,200 hectares of garrigues, forest and vines. Strong wind combined with high heat spred the flames quickly.

While vines themselves are relatively resistant to fire, winemakers reported that flames destroyed all vegetation and wildlife in some vineyards.

An initial investigation suggested that the fire started from a road (D611) or motocross terrain near it.

Extreme weather has caused problems for French winemakers in 2016.

Hailstorms and freezing conditions have hit harvest size in the Loire, Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais and part of Languedoc, in particular.

Officials expect France’s 2016 wine harvest to fall by 10% versus 2015.

Editing by Chris Mercer.

More stories on the 2016 harvest in France:

Hail-hit French winemakers allowed to buy in grapes

Rule revived as winemakers reel from frost and hail...

Burgundy hit by ‘worst frost since 1981’

Worst frost in 30 years may hit 2016 harvest.

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