April frost may cost Bordeaux wine region €1billion

Up to 30% of the grape harvest may be lost, causing huge losses across the wine industry

5 May 2017

The frost that struck Bordeaux vineyards in late April could mean the loss of 30% of the harvest and cost at least €1billion in lost revenues.

The overnight frost on April 20-21 and April 27-28 heavily affected most French vineyards, surprising many winegrowers by its intensity. Now that the first balance sheets are being drawn up in the Bordeaux region, the estimated losses are substantial, said The Federation of Great Wines of Bordeaux (FGVB).

More than 60,000 hectares out of a total of 114,000 hectares were struck, with all appellations from Médoc to Sauternes affected. The wine region had not experienced a frost of such magnitude since 1991.

"It is too early to appreciate the ability of affected vines to produce grapes. We will know at the end of May, beginning of June. Will they flourish? Will the second buds grow?” said the director of the FGVB, Yann Le Goaster.

According to him, the loss will be at least as great as the one recorded in 2013: "This makes more than €1bn euros of potential turnover lost in two nights. We measure the impact on the economy. It is obviously the wine industry and all the suppliers of the sector that will suffer the consequences.”

Few winegrowers, about 25% in the Bordeaux region, are insured against this type of weather damage as they consider the cost of insurance too high and prefer to take their chances.

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Not all plots were affected in the same way. The orientation of the vines plays a big part, so the impact varies from 10% to 100% depending on the location.

Between 80 and 100% of the vines in the south of the Médoc, in particular in Margaux, were damaged. The vineyards of Lalande-de-Pomerol, Blaye and the Côtes de Bourg or the Pessac-Léognan are also badly affected.

In Saint-Emilion, 70 to 80% of the vineyard was affected by the big freeze, according to the FGVB.

On May 9, the Regional Council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine will hold a meeting with industry professionals to assess the extent of the damage, not only for vines but also for orchards.

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