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Frost leaves vines ‘looking like dried tobacco’

Winemakers across France and also parts of Germany, Italy and Switzerland are counting the cost of frost damage in their vineyards after several nights that felt more like January than late April.

  • Winemakers lament ‘black Thursday’

  • Patchy but serious damage across France, from Loire to Languedoc, and in Germany, Italy, Switzerland

  • Vine shoots were left looking like ‘dried tobacco’ – French winemaker

Champagne vineyard managers were among the first to raise the alarm over frost last week, but it has emerged that many regions suffered damage.

The Aude region around Narbonne in Languedoc has been dramatically affected, according to Frédéric Rouanet, president of Vignerons de l’Aude. He told Decanter.com that a ‘large part of the vineyard area was damaged in the Aude. Some vines are totally destroyed’.

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In Jura, Hervé Ligier, president of AOC Arbois, estimated that between 30% and 90% of vines suffered damage in the appellation, even in the AOC Château-Chalon.

‘With -2°C, buds have not resisted,’ he said.

In Pouilly-sur-Loire, temperatures fell to -5 ° C for six hours. After being hit by frost in 2016, the region is now, once again, affected. The first estimates suggested it would mean a 30% decrease in the size of the 2017 vintage.

In Montlouis, in Loire Valley, winemakers clubbed together faced with plunging temperatures.

‘The winemakers have lost three out of five crops in previous years and they have decided to mobilise themselves,’ said Guillaume Lapaque, director of the Federation des Associations Viticoles d’Indre-et-Loire et de la Sarthe.

They launched seven helicopters into the skies to ‘dry out the air and raise temperatures’, to stop the vineyard from freezing.

In AOC Chinon in the Loire Valley, early estimates suggested 20% of vines had been affected.

However, official damage estimates everywhere were still being refined and calculated.

In Alsace, Gérard Schaffar said that he had never seen frost of such magnitude. The vineyard of Turckheim-Wintzenheim is among the worst affected within the sector of Sigolsheim, Bennwihr and the Harth in Colmar.

‘The most advanced Gewurztraminer with promising shoots is completely grilled. It’s unfortunate to say, but it looks like dried tobacco,’ said Schaffar.

Olivier Humbrecht posted on his Facebook account, ‘Black Thursday!’. He posted a picture of Herrenweg de Turckheim.

The cold has not only affected France. The Valais region of Switzerland also saw temperatures drop well below freezing. Five-hundred-and-fifty hectares were affected, more than in 2012, with ‘significant damage’, said Pierre-André Roduit, of the Valais wine office.

More stories like this:

Burgundy hit by ‘worst frost since 1981’

Worst frost in 30 years may hit 2016 harvest.


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