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The job of the winegrower, is a little tougher with the frost


Whilst the havoc of frost is not a new concern to the vineyards for our beloved French wine makers, its not usually something we see in April, and what we’ve seen in 2021 is said to be one of the most damaging for the French wine growers for a very long time. The fact that the frost has occurred unseasonably late is what is causing the most concern, as when the frost sets in after the vine’s first growth after the winter, it can kill the plant.

The question us wine lovers ask is, what does this mean to our beloved wine and the 2021 vintages? We’ve no doubt the quality of wine will still be exceptional however it is projected to mean a significant reduction in the amount of produce that can be outlaid into the 2021 vintage.

However, we remain positive after checking in with Jean Hubert Fabre from Domaines Fabre hearing that due to geography and protection practices, the impact has been much less in that region.

Domaines Fabre is located in the Medoc appellation and therefore geographically protected by Gironde estuary and the proximity to the ocean, a welcomed safeguard compared to other in-land appellations.   

Jean explains that “we protected our most frost-resistant plots in our Margaux vineyard with hundreds of anti-freeze candles. It was quite effective, and we believe our loss will be less than 5%, despite the minus-4-degree temperatures for many hours in the middle of the night”.

Domaines Fabre’s Haut-Medoc vineyard was also cared for by candle-light and burning bales of hay, shielding the more sensitive plots. They also pruned the vines very late to delay the start of the vegetation process. Jean calls this a “winning choice” as less than 50% of the vines were affected and very minimally at that.

When we also spoke, earlier in the year, to David Beaulieu from Chateau Coutet about the 2017 vintage which was well known to be savagely ravaged with frost, David was adamant that the Beaulieu family has not only been able to protect their wines from frost damage but that the 2017 was one of their best vintages ever, due to the vineyard being home to some of the oldest vines. He believes the vines have a climatic DNA where they remember the environmental history that they grow in and therefore, naturally grow later in the season to miss the frost stricken months. David says that when the frost hits, the younger vines of other Chateaux around the country have significantly blossomed and are most susceptible to damage, however because their vines bloom later, their branches are much smaller and less vulnerable at the time.

Wine making has a romantic existence to it and Jean Hubert sums that up for us – “The job of the wine grower is a beautiful but hard job, because we owe so much to nature. Unfortunately, the latter is sometimes not as kind to us”.

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