Sour grapes for wine drinkers: French vineyards hit by frost record lowest volumes in decades


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French wine production is set to hit a record collapse this fall after frosts and widespread disease damaged Burgundy vineyards at Boudreaux.

Production is expected to fall by a third across the industry, with production expected to reach 33.3 million hectoliters this year, the French agriculture ministry said on Tuesday.

“The spring frosts have reduced much of the production, which will be historically low, below those of 1991 and 2017,” the ministry said in a statement.

Reduced production volumes could drive up costs for consumers, although it was not immediately clear how large the price increases could be.

A single hectolitre is enough to fill 133 bottles of wine, and the ministry’s current projection for this year’s harvest is down 29% year-on-year. This is about 25% less than the five-year average.

“The yield would be close to that of 1977, when the harvest was reduced by destructive frosts and a (rainy) summer,” said the ministry.

Unusually freezing temperatures in France last April reduced its grape harvest by 29%

Several unusually cold April nights contributed to crop damage in almost every wine region of the country. Desperate farmers have tried unsuccessfully to spare their vineyards from destruction by lighting small fires to keep their crops warm.

The frosts destroyed at least half of the Burgundy harvest, an association of local producers said in April. The region produces some of the most sought after wines in the world.

Although few French wine regions have been spared the frost, the ministry said some regions Рincluding the famous C̫te-R̫tie region Рhave been hit harder than others.

French winemaker Remy Nodin examines his grapevine buds damaged by a night frost on April 7

French winemaker Remy Nodin examines his grapevine buds damaged by a night frost on April 7

Some winegrowers have said the cold snap was the worst France has seen since the 1990s.

“It’s a national phenomenon,” said Jérôme Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA agricultural union and winegrower in Hérault.

“You can go back in history, there were (freezing) episodes in 1991, 1997, 2003, but in my opinion, it’s beyond all.”

Certain grapes harvested before maturity Рsuch as Chardonnay or Merlot Рwere the most affected by the frost, with greater destruction in Burgundy, the Rh̫ne Valley and the Jura.

Spring frosts and summer diseases devastated the crops in Burgundy (photo)

Spring frosts and summer diseases devastated the crops in Burgundy (photo)

The rainy summer weather exacerbated the problem, with mold and black rot causing additional losses in many wine regions, the ministry said.

Frost, hail and disease in Burgundy devastated a significant part of the harvest, especially in Yonne, where two-thirds of production was ruined.

In the Bordeaux region, the Sauvignon grape has been the most affected by the frost, which means that white wine production will be the most impacted.

The diseases that affected the crops during the summer slowed down the production of Merlot.

In the Bordeaux region (photo), the Sauvignon grape was the most affected by an unusual cold snap

In the Bordeaux region (photo), the Sauvignon grape was the most affected by an unusual cold snap

It hasn’t been a great month for wine connoisseurs.

The managing director of the UK’s largest wine company warned earlier in September that Britain would likely face a wine shortage with empty shelves and higher prices over Christmas.

A shortage of delivery drivers means retailers could struggle to meet demand during the holidays, in the latest development of the supply chain crisis.

Accolade boss Robert Foye says driver shortages could affect Christmas wine supply

Accolade boss Robert Foye says driver shortages could affect Christmas wine supply

Robert Foye, who oversees Accolade – which owns Hardys, Echo Falls and Kumala – said wine stock levels in stores at the end of the year could depend on the transportation industry.

“These shortages, if they continue, could certainly have an impact on Christmas,” Mr Foye told the BBC.

“We are trying to get ahead, but it depends on the situation of the whole UK haulage and trucking industry. The only way to mitigate risk is to work closely with our trucking and transportation suppliers and our customers. ‘

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