Record Cold Temperatures and Late Frost Hit France's Vineyards for the Second Spring in a Row

Late-April frosts in 2021 produced one of the worst harvests for the French wine industry.

A vineyard overcome with frost
Photo: Getty Images

After France suffered one of the worst years for wine production in its history in 2021, the 2022 growing season is already getting off to a rocky start as, once again, late frost has hit some regions across the country, potentially damaging early budding vines.

Last year, April frost affected about 80 percent of French vineyards. This year, so far, frosts have arrived slightly earlier, hopefully causing fewer losses, but the overall pattern was similar: a March warm spell resulted in early budding in some regions which, in turn, increased the likelihood of damage following Sunday night temperatures that the AFP cited as the coldest during April in France since 1947.

Burgundy in particular faced the brunt of the frost as Monday morning temperatures in Chablis dropped to as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Associated Press. Vintners reportedly used warming measures such as paraffin candles to try to prevent damage, with one vineyard owner describing the situation as "a very, very serious frost."

In Puligny-Montrachet, Pierre Vincent, head of Domaine Leflaive, told The Telegraph he used torches and heated wooden cauldrons to battle back Mother Nature. "It costs €5,000 per hectare [about $2,215 per acre] but if we hadn't done it, we would have lost 50 to 80 percent [of crops], like last year," he was quoted as saying. "But we haven't won yet. I'm very worried as we are only at the start of April. In 2016, the frost hit on April 27 and we lost 80 percent of our harvest."

That continued uncertainty is part of the problem as early frosts have become an increasingly common problem. "Since 2016, there have been three big frosts," Thomas Ventoura, a winemaker in Chablis, told Reuters. "We're now starting to wonder about the future of our business at this time of the year."

But for 2022, at least, the extent of how bad this first wave of frost may have been still isn't entirely clear. France's agriculture ministry stated, "The damage is only visible after a few days."

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