Vignerons fear the frost in France

Vineyards in France are burning

On the last day of March, the sun was burning on my face, while I biked to our suburbian beach. The garden greens were sunbathing and quietly popped one button after the other. Just a week ago this pre-summer weather changed into wintery temperatures below zero. This week it started to rain, snow, hail and the wind was icy cold.  Sun beams were fighting through this stormy violence.

This same situation occurs in the Northern vineyards of France. Every year spring is testing the nerves of winegrowers in Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy, Loire and Beaujolais. In April the leaves are starting to bud. The plants are at their most fragile. Farmers prey for mercy of the weather gods, but this year their preys are left unnoticed.

Fighting the Gods of Nature

This fight against frost provides some beautiful pictures in the vineyards. Farmers light fires in between vines with oil tanks or bougies. They ignite smoke with bales of hay and even helicopters are launched to save the crops.

Solutions are either less expensive, but laborious and can cause harm to the environment. Few winegrowers have a choice for expensive technological options. Especially the young, small, independent farmers with low yields we love to work with are struggling in this fight against frost. They wake up in the middle of night. At 4 am they’re rolling around equipment and pick up branches and anything else they can burn, to create smoke.

If the frost sets in, a large part of an annual yield can be lost within a few days. Big losses were suffered in 2016. Chablis saw half of their total yield disappear and all the crops of Chapelle de Bois, Fleurie, Beaujolais were destroyed in just one hailstorm. In 2017, night frosts gave farmers in Bordeaux sleepless nights. 40 to 60 percent loss of crops was the result. Both years provided beautiful wine nonetheless. Low yield, but good to great quality.

Yesterday a local -6 degrees Celsius was measured in Chablis. We hold our breath and keep our fingers crossed for moderate temperatures. Four Seasons in One Day… Smiling as the Shit Comes Down, Neil Finn sings to us. Let’s hope that the winegrowers in France will be the last to laugh this spring. Paul Breton, Lise and Bertrands Jousset, Fabien Duperray, Chris en Philippe Pacalet, Marcel Joubert, Céline en Laurent Tripoz, everyone there… Bon courage!