He says his corner of France has seen 300 millimeters of rain over the past two months, 10 times what he would normally expect at this time of year. “The vines need sun now, they must be dry,” he said, waving a branch of moldy grapes.
“Too much rain causes downy mildew to develop, a fungus that grows on leaves and grapes, and this fungus affects the amount of grapes. “
Not like before
Toubart said the changing climate is upsetting the established order in the vineyards of the Champagne region, where he now harvests in August rather than October.
“We know that being a winegrower is working with nature. We know that there are risks and that there are years when everything is fine and years which are not so well, ”he told Reuters.
“This year will be difficult and will remain in my memory, because in the memory of winegrowers, we have never seen such a serious case of mildew. “
He said spring frost meant 30% of the crop was lost and late blight cost an additional 30%.
“We have lost more than half of the harvest in a few weeks,” said Toubart, vice-president of the Champagne industry lobby CIVC.
“We cannot put the vines in tunnels”
Another producer, Franck Jobert, said careful planning had helped him limit his losses, but there was little he could do.
“We are doing what we can; it’s also partly luck, we can’t put the vines in tunnels, ”he said.
Météo France said Champagne had the second wettest June-July period since record keeping began in the 1960s.
Torrential rains hit western Europe in mid-July, causing deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium and raising concerns over damage to a range of agricultural products.
Toubart said this week that reserves from previous vintages meant there should be no impact on champagne supplies in the market.