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Harvest fears as damaging mildew fungus hits French vineyards

As much as 90% of some vineyards in Bordeaux have been affected by the latest crisis to hit the winemaking community

A bunch of wine grapes with powdery grey mildew covering them

The mildew spreads among vines and can be exacerbated by extreme weather Pic: Somogyi Laszlo / Shutterstock

Up to 90% of some Bordeaux vineyards have been hit by a damaging mildew fungus, winemakers have warned, as a crisis number and help centre are set up.

The mildew has been reported in several areas of France, including Gironde (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) and Auvergne (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).

“We have some areas where the damage has reached 90%, meaning that we have vineyards that won’t be harvested at all,” Antoine Péron, a vineyard advisor who is in contact with 300 winegrowers in the Bordeaux Families cooperative, told FranceInfo.

Frédéric Bizac, a Crémant de Bordeaux producer in Sauveterre de Guyenne, south-east of Bordeaux, said: “We only have 40% of the Merlot harvest left. It’s very frustrating and worrying.

“We've done everything to save the harvest, but nothing works. We're wondering whether we shouldn't be using better-performing products [like pesticides] that we used to have, but which we're not allowed to use. 

“We're up against the wall. I've got colleagues who are 65 years old and still farming, they've never seen anything like this, it's hard to be a winegrower right now.”

Read also: How winemakers in France are reducing pesticide use 

‘Mildew is everywhere’

Mildew is a white fungus, which can be exacerbated by bad weather. 

The Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA) de la Gironde has now set up a help centre for affected winegrowers. 

“The mildew is everywhere,” said Mr Péron. “So winemakers are at a loss for what to do. We are helping them on the ground, and on the phone, with both technical and psychological support.”

The ‘last straw’

This latest crisis comes after a difficult few years for winemakers in the region, who have struggled with various problems since 2017.

Nicolas Morain, deputy director of the Gironde MSA, said: “We’ve had seven years of crisis. The frost of 2017, the hail of 2018, then Covid, then the American and Chinese markets depleting, and this mildew is the last straw.”

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How winemakers in France combat the effects of climate change
How a vigneron tackles vine disease in France 

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