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31 May 2017

Mild March and Frosty End to April Wreak Havoc across European Vineyards

It's bad news for the nation’s wine lovers, as widespread decimation inflicted upon European vineyards as a result of unusual weather conditions in the first third of the year looks likely to result in as much as a 20% price hike for European-made wines, as harvests are crippled and supplies run increasingly scarce.

The worst affected appear to be vineyards throughout France, in particular the famed Bordeaux region. It is reported that many vineyards in the region could lose around half of their harvest, while one-fifth could lose as much as 90-100%. The Cognac, Lot-et-Garonne, Bergerac, and Champagne regions, each carrying a prestigious reputation in the world of wine themselves, have also been substantially affected.

The rather severe damage to said vineyards was caused by a combination of unusual weather conditions. A relatively mild March, which, had circumstances differed, could have been seen as a positive, caused many shoots and buds to sprout prematurely. When two separate cold snaps then hit towards the end of April, these fragile new buds were unable to cope, and soon succumbed to the cold.

Despite many vineyards resorting to unorthodox methods such as using candles, heaters, and the down-draught of helicopters in an effort to save their crops, the damage caused is still extensive and expensive; the damage, now considered a crisis, carries a total estimated cost of up to €2biliion (£1.7billion) with production dropping by as many as 350 million bottles.

As a result, Hervé Grandeau, chairman of the Federation of Fine Wines of Bordeaux, informed The Times that the region’s 2017 vintage would rise in price by around 10-20%.The 2016 vintage is also being priced higher by many vineyards as they attempt to cover expected losses this year.

Jean-Francois Galhaud, president of the Saint-Emilion Wine Council, commented on the crisis, “We have a hangover. 80% of our vineyard was hit by the frost. It's all our work that has been wiped out.

“It's a desolate scene. The vines seem beautiful but when you approach them you can see that everything is dead. There is no more fruit.”

Vineyards throughout Germany, Italy, and the UK have also been affected. Chris Foss, head of the wine department at Plumpton College, East Sussex, told The Guardian that vineyards in the south-east of England have had up to 90% of their buds destroyed by the frost, which he expects to result in a drop in this year’s yield of 50% or more.

"I've been in English wine for 30 years and never seen anything like it," Foss said of the disastrous events.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.