Courtesy of Philippe Desmazes / Getty Images

It's being called the "most important" spring frost since 1991.

Rebekah Lowin
May 04, 2017

Think the French elections have been stressful? Try being a French winemaker right now.

Currently, they're experiencing the country's "most important" spring frost since 1991. Vineyards from Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy have all been affected. Last week, temperatures dropped occasionally below 19°F in all three of those areas, meaning that even shoots that had already begun to develop have been destroyed.

“All areas of the Champagne are hit to very varying degrees,” Thibaut Le Mailloux from the Champagne Committee (CIVC) industry group told The Guardian. “It’s too early to estimate the extent of the damage, but the frost impact is worse than last year’s.”

For those of us far across the pond, it can be difficult to comprehend the extent of the damage caused by the frost currently wreaking havoc on France's winemaking regions. But photos showcasing both the ice itself and the winemakers' efforts to combat it help to reveal just how bad conditions have gotten—and just how little can be done about it.

Courtesy of Philippe Desmazes / Getty Images

The CIVC reported that an average of 20 percent to 25 percent of vine shoots were destroyed in Champagne as of Tuesday, and some vineyards in the Bugey region around Lyon have been completely destroyed. Last year, France's wine output fell 10 percent because of poor weather circumstances, with Champagne's specific supply down more than 20 percent since the previous year. A full 70 percent of vineyards have witnessed at least some serious damage to their crops, and 20 percent of them have lost between 90 percent and 100 percent of their potential 2017 crop, according to a statement from Le Point magazine. 

Now, the winemakers are doing everything they can to salvage the crops. Large heaters have been used in an attempt to save some of the crops, as have downward currents of hot air from helicopters flying overhead. And no rescue attempt is too painstaking: Many have even tried using candles and individual fire-burning oil drums to curb the frost's spread.

Courtesy of Philippe Desmazes / Getty Images

Julien Hubail, expert at the Bugey wine union, told the Guardian that this particular frost is the worst any of the winemakers can remember witnessing. And there's more to come: Yet another severe frost is expected to hit the regions tonight.

“In winemakers’ memory it had never happened," Hubail said. "No one had ever experienced such a severe freeze.”