Frost hits the vineyards of southern France

Monday March 30 2020 by Vitisphere

 Frost has wrought damage on vines in the Rhone Valley, Provence and Gard for the first time this year. Frost has wrought damage on vines in the Rhone Valley, Provence and Gard for the first time this year.

The cold snap that has settled over France in recent days has taken its toll on some vineyards. In Var, the damage is very noticeable. “It's extremely serious”, said an alarmed Eric Paul, chairman of the Var PGI association. Vineyards were exposed to below minus temperatures overnight on March 24 and 25. “At my place I recorded -5.7°C the first night and -5.1°C the second night. We are still expecting frost tonight”, deplored Paul, adding that temperatures sent an icy chill through the vineyards for several long hours: “from 11 pm to 7 am”. He also pointed out that the damage occurred throughout the department, “which is unheard of”. Both inland and along the coast, frost damage can be seen amongst the vines, although at the moment it is impossible to estimate how much damage it has caused. Vines were running about ten days early, but in many vineyards it is impossible to know what the consequences are inside the buds.

Flurries of snow

We certainly could have done without this”, lamented Jean-Claude Pellegrin, chairman of the PGI Pays des Bouches-du-Rhône association. All the vineyards across the department are affected but with inconsistent impact. “The area around Arles is 100% affected, in the Centre and Aix it varies between 20 and 40% whereas the vineyards at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire are very badly affected but we don't yet know how badly”, said Pellegrin. Vineyards here also experienced two nights of icy temperatures, dropping to between 1.5°C and 3°C and even snow on March 25-26.

Losses in the Rhone Valley

More broadly speaking, frost has taken its toll across the Rhone Valley. “Especially in the PGI areas located in low-lying, damp areas”, commented Philippe Pellaton, chairman of the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages, who also said that some AOC vines have suffered too. In an initial estimate, Philippe Pellaton said he was expecting losses of around 30% in the vineyards of the Rhone Valley, an estimate that will obviously need to be confirmed as the growing season evolves.

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