One of France's biggest export industries is facing a devastating blow after an unusually severe frost earlier this month damaged vineyards across the country. The frost has affected 80% of vineyards in France's primary wine growing areas, according to the European Committee of Wine Companies. Winemakers tried to keep air temperatures up by lighting candles and braziers in their vineyards, but in many cases it was not enough to protect their budding vines.
Severe frosts across France this week have badly damaged buds and flowers in vineyards and fruit orchards and will cut grape harvests in some areas by as much as 90 per cent, according to growers and farmers’ organisations. “It was like winter coming in spring,” said Didier Delagrange, whose family has made wine from grapes grown on the slopes of Volnay in Burgundy for seven generations.
A violent hailstorm that hit the Bordeaux wine region last Friday has caused severe damage, with several hundred hectares of vines nearly destroyed, notably in the famous Saint-Emilion region, the local chamber of agriculture said. This comes at a time when French wine makers are already suffering from a slowdown in consumption due to the closure of restaurants and bars worldwide in a bid to contain the new coronavirus, as well as from lower exports caused by extra U.S. tariffs on French wine since late last year.
It's a problem plaguing grape-growers worldwide - in an ever-changing climate, how can they protect their crops from the undesirable effects of wildfire smoke exposure. A recent study by a team of UBC Okanagan researchers has led to the development of a preventative strategy for protecting grapes from volatile phenols - flavored compounds present in smoke that may be absorbed into ripening grapes and subsequently impact wine flavor.
A cool September meant a lot of Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were still hanging when early freezes hit in early October, creating widespread harvest chaos and crop loss — at a time when the industry already faced an oversupply. Kevin Corliss, vice president of vineyards for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, declined to put a number to the loss but called it one of the top-three weather-damage events in his career.
It was late October when Adrian Sparks caught sight of the first smoke rising from the hilly horizon. Within days the haze evolved into drift smoke, which grew thicker as the mountain behind the Mount Pleasant winery in the Hunter Valley caught fire. “It was full-on,” Adrian says. “There was smoke all through November and December. A clear day would still be hazy.
Chile has been having a good grape season so far, and has been able to take advantage of the California season ending early and the Peruvian Ica-region season starting late. “We’ve been able to enter a fairly empty market – much emptier than it was last season,” says Christian Corssen of Compañia Frutera Santa Maria, who exports their grower’s grapes throughout Chile.
Australian wine producer Tyrell’s has said it has decided to “severely” reduce its 2020 vintage, by as much as 80%, due to fears of smoke taint. Although not directly affected by the serious fires in Australia, the “continued presence of smoke” in the Hunter Valley since late 2019 means that many of the vineyards may have been affected by smoke taint.
The fast-moving fire that tore through the Adelaide Hills has possibly wiped out a third of the region's wine production. The Adelaide Hills is one of the most intensively farmed regions in South Australia and it's estimated 25,000 hectares has been burnt. On Kangaroo Island a further 13,000 hectares has burnt.
Above par northeast monsoon (winter monsoon) season and downy mildew disease have left the grape growers of Vijayapura district in dire straits. About 40% of the crop cultivated in the district has been damaged due to excessive moisture, cold weather, and the downy mildew infection. The crop loss in the region is pegged at Rs 356.
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