The cold weather from northern Europe has now also affected many parts of Europe, including southern France and northern Italy. From having a week with temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius, the night temperature dropped next week down to several degrees below zero for three nights and this during a period that is sensitive to the buds of the vines! The wine regions preliminarily estimate damages of between 20 and 60% and up to 100%!!
Provence was also hit hard and it was the night of April 8 that was cold. I have been in contact with a vineyard near Brignoles, known for being a cold place, and they had – 7.4 degrees in the morning. One of Provence’s coldest areas is the northern part of the Coteaux Aix-en-Provence wine region, just northwest of the high-quality cooperative Les Quatre Tours, and they had -8.5 degrees! For these colder parts, the winemaker can be affected a little less because the development of buds is also later there.
But large parts of the Provence wine region are affected, I assume that vineyards closer to the Mediterranean have survived better because the sea dampens the temperature. But we will see in a few more days, when the damaged shoots have dried in, how hard the vineyards have been hit.
The “Agricultural Agency of Provence”, Chambres d’agriculture PACA, has declared a state of crise and has activated its crisis unit to which winegrowers can report their damage. The region of Provence is said to have already released € 500,000 in aid. A letter on the situation throughout France has been sent to the Minister of Agriculture and Food with a request for aid for the loss of production and to avoid the bankruptcy of vineyards, and it was announced yesterday that emergency aid will be provided.
Within two weeks, the damage in France will be estimated , but damage of between 20 to 60% and up to 100% is already mentioned for some appellations !!! We can only hope that new buds will be formed but the harvest will still be reduced and these grape clusters will ripen later than those that were formed first, which gives more work during the harvest and sorting as you want an even ripening of the grapes. So not even in Provence, where otherwise hailstorms cause problems, is it “calm” (?!) to be a vinegrower.
In areas that are often affected by frost, it is common to set out small “fireplaces” in the vineyards, which in itself looks picturesque but which must be a nightmare for the winemaker both in terms of the potential consequences of the frost and all the hard work during the “dog watch hours”! Another way is to spray water over the vine so that the ice that forms around the bud at the same time protects it. Other variants are to have fans that blow in air so that the air does not stagnate and a variant for more well-financed wineries, for example Château Petrus, is to rent helicopters that blow down warmer air from air layers higher up.
There are now many problems piled up on Provence winemakers, the effect of the pandemic, the currently paused 25% punitive tariffs in the US (Blog 2020-02-23, 2021-03-15) and problems for smaller producers to export wine to England (blog 2021-03-15) and now this!
Sources: paca.chambres-agriculture.fr, www.vitisphere.com