Bordeaux Growers Assess Damage as Frost Hits Vines

The River Garonne in Bordeaux. Photo: Guy Collins

By Guy Collins

Severe frost hit Bordeaux vineyards during the night of Tuesday April 6 into Wednesday morning April 7 and over the following 48 hours through to Thursday April 8, according to Bordeaux newspaper Sud Ouest citing local producers.

It was part of a wider cold snap that brought sub-zero temperatures to vineyards across France from Burgundy through Champagne to the Loire and Rhone Valley, according to the Guardian, citing Agence France Presse.

Temperatures fell to as low as between -4C and -6C in parts of the Medoc, according to Sud Ouest, which said some of the earlier-budding Merlot grapes were more vulnerable to the frost than the Cabernet Sauvignon, which develops later.

Vineyards further from the river are more susceptible to frost, which is typically at its worst in the early morning hours. Smudge pots were lit in many vineyards across Bordeaux overnight to attempt to keep temperatures higher.

In Saint Emilion, producers who lit smudge pots included Chateau Figeac and Chateau Larcis-Ducasse, according to photos in Sud Ouest, while similar precautions were taken at Chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol. Temperatures dropped to -4C in Sauternes in the early morning hours of April 7, and helicopters were also used in the region to keep air moving and the temperature up.

While Bordeaux is vulnerable to Spring frosts and suffered from a particularly severe one in late April 2017, there can be considerable variation in the damage suffered by different vineyards, depending very much on factors such as whether vines are on low-lying land, slopes or higher ground, the direction in which they are facing and their proximity to, or distance from, the river.

The extent of damage suffered by individual vineyards is likely to become clearer in coming weeks as the growing season progresses and estates are able to make a more detailed assessment.

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I am a journalist writing about the Bordeaux wine market.

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