Third in French wine lost after rare cold snaps devastating the vines | France


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At least a third of French wine production worth nearly € 2 billion (£ 1.7 billion) in sales will be lost this year after rare freezing temperatures devastated many vineyards and fruit crops across France, which raises concerns about the climate crisis.

“This is probably the biggest agricultural disaster of the beginning of the 21st century,” French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said this week as the government declared an “agricultural disaster” and began to prepare financial measures for it. ’emergency.

The unusual wave of frost and ice struck suddenly after a period of hot weather, compounding the damage. The heat had encouraged the vines and fruit trees to develop earlier than usual, only to be withered by the sudden cold.

The national federation of farmers’ unions told AFP it believed at least a third of French wine production would be lost as some harvests in many of France’s best-known wine regions could be decimated .

The destruction hit part of France, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Provence, damaging the vines but also the producers of kiwis, apricots, apples and other fruits as well as crops. such as beetroot and rapeseed.

The winemakers had fought for several nights in an attempt to save the vineyards, trying to warm the fields by lighting thousands of small fires and candles near the vines and trees. This created the extraordinary spectacle of the night sky lit by rows of flames between the vines.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a photo of vineyards lit by candles, expressing his support for farmers who he said were fighting “night after night” to protect crops.

Michel-Henri Ratte had set alarms for several nights to light candles to protect his 9 hectares (22 acres) of biodynamic vineyards around Arbois in Jura in eastern France. But severe frosts, followed by snow, devastated the first shoots of the vines.

“We had bought huge candles – like big paint cans filled with wax – and we put them between the vines and ran away to light them at 2 am,” he said.

“There were still green shoots but the snow came. It was catastrophic. Currently we are looking at a 100% loss on this year’s crop. We will know in a month if anything has survived. We live close to nature, we are used to dealing with changing weather conditions, but we were damaged by cold snap in 2017 and 2019. So that this happens every two years and time passes rapidly from very hot to very cold, raises questions about climate change. It was not normal cold, it was polar cold, much more intense than usual.

The Grand Cru de Chablis vineyard in Burgundy, France, in a good year.
The Grand Cru de Chablis vineyard in Burgundy, France, in a good year. Photographie: Konstantin Kalishko / Alamy

Ratte typically produces up to 30,000 bottles per year, but may not produce a single one this year.

He said: “Covid-19 and the lockdown had already left us feeling like time had stood still and we were in another world. We miss social interaction, [and] customers who come to us. During that time the vines kept moving forward, but now they have stopped too.

Thomas Montagne, head of the European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers, and producer in Luberon, southern France, said: “There is a sense of disillusionment as French winegrowers have already been hit hard by the Covid closures and closures of bars and restaurants. Independent producers have been hit hard by the cancellation of wine fairs due to Covid. International exports have also been affected; we have already been struck by the tariffs on French wine imposed by former US President Donald Trump.

He said the winemakers felt “the shock and the sadness”.

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