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Russian producers ‘on brink of wipe-out’ after worst winter for decades

Russian producers are calling on the government to avert a crisis as the worst winter weather in half a century has wiped out up to half this year's wine harvest.

Winter weather: ‘hourly average of -15C’

Calling on the federal government to take action, one producer said, ‘Everybody was on the brink of a wipe-out.’

Temperatures dipped as low as as -30C in some areas, with Chateau Le Grand Vostock, based in Krasnodar’s Krymsk district, recording 15 days with an hourly average temperature of -15C – and three nights below -20C.

‘It is really the limit of resistance for vitis vinifera – especially Merlot – even if we cultivate them with a plough,’ winery director Frank Duseigneur said.

‘The weather is milder and we are now pruning again … The reality of the damage will only be seen in May.’

In Dagestan, leading brandy and fortified wine producer Citadel, whose vineyards are the most southerly in Russia, saw about 600ha of young vines destroyed – described by Citadel’s Oxana Oldakovskaya as ‘the most promising plots’.

‘In 2007 everyone was speaking about the cold, but it was only two days,’ said Villa Romanov owner Andrey Romanov.

‘This year we had some two weeks of bitter cold … We will probably have only half our normal harvest. This would be a good moment for our government to step in.’

Pavel Titov, of sparkling wine producer Abrau-Durso, said it was too soon to assess the full damage, but 40-50% of the area’s harvest had probably been lost.

Abrau-Durso itself had been less affected, since its vines were sheltered from the biting wind and protected from the freezing rain by being covered in snow.

‘We will definitely see dead vines this year in places less protected and closer to the [Black Sea] coast,’ Titov added.

‘Right now it is difficult to speculate how much, but everybody was on the brink of a wipe-out.’

Written by Richard Woodard and Dmitry Kovalev

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