French Wine Groups on Close Watch After Damaging Frosts

Some of the world's most prominent wine-making regions are reeling because of the cold. Groups representing those vineyards are working to assist and assess the damage.

The wine industry isn’t having an easy go of it these days, and a lot of the problem comes down to the cold weather sweeping through Europe.

Last week, the weather in many legendary wine-making regions in both France and Italy led to significant frost concerns, putting vineyard owners in the position of taking dramatic steps to prevent damage to their crops. In some cases, growers put open flames near the crops to prevent the grapes from freezing.

And groups of all stripes were there to advise the vineyard owners. Patrick Vasseur, the vice chairman of FDSEA33, a chapter of France’s national farm union, characterized the freeze as the worst in decades.

“Today we are likely seeing the most important freeze since 1991. And there are more frosts forecast for the coming night,” Vasseur stated Thursday, according to Reuters.

Other groups were keeping an eye on the potential long-term damage the weather was causing, including Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), which represents Cognac makers, and Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CVIC), which represents the Champagne region of France.

“All areas of the Champagne are hit to very varying degrees,” CVIC’s Thibaut Le Mailloux told Reuters. “It’s too early to estimate the extent of the damage, but the frost impact is worse than last year’s.”

In comments to Wine Spectator, Le Mailloux noted that the climate was wetter than it had been during previous frosts, which came with its own threats. He estimated that frost damaged as much as a quarter of the current crop, which combined with prior frosts might have affected up to half of all crops.

“Of course, in every village, every subregion, frost-impact intensity varies from marginal symptoms to vineyards entirely damaged,” he added in his comments.

France wasn’t alone with its crop-damage problems. Wine Spectator separately noted that vineyards in northern Italy had sustained both frost and hail damage, which had affected 95 percent of crops at some vineyards.

A vineyard with burned wood piles that had been lit the night before to help limit the effect of frost on the vines. (Jutta M. Jenning/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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