The heavens open as Languedoc enters the final phase of harvesting

Monday September 20 2021 by Vitisphere

 Further rainfall is forecast around 23 September, fuelling fears. Further rainfall is forecast around 23 September, fuelling fears. - Photo credit : Domaine de la Costesse

On September 14 and 15, torrential rain fell on vineyards in the Gard and Hérault areas of southern France, bringing harvesting to a standstill. “This is the change in weather that normally occurs at the autumnal equinox. This year it’s early – we haven't finished harvesting because the crop is late due to frost”, sums up Lise Fons-Vincent, the winegrower who heads up Château de Fourques, a 50-hectare estate in Juvignac, Hérault.

There is cumulative damage to the vines, with some winegrowers experiencing up to four natural disasters, with excess water; silting from rivers running through vineyards; hail; and strong gusts of wind knocking down vines. The rain fell horizontally”, says Frédéric Saccoman, managing director of the Vignerons d'Héraclès winery in Codognan, Gard. “September 14 was catastrophic for some areas”, confirms Anne Sandré, head of the viticulture department at the Gard Chamber of Agriculture. She reported “a total of 200 to 300 mm of rain over a very large area, and even more locally”.

In Gard, “20 to 40% of the crop was still on the vine according to the first estimates”, says Anthony Bafoil, chairman of the Gard co-operative wineries. “The later-ripening varieties, such as Cabernet, were left in the vineyards and we thought their volumes would be larger, that we would do better than with the frost-affected early-ripening varieties”, admits Bafoil, pointing to a double whammy for winegrowers – frost on the early varieties and heavy rain on the later ones.

With four hectares of vines flooded by the neighbouring river on September 14, Gilles Nougalliat at Domaine Costesse, a 17-hectare estate in Vacquières, concurs: “These were Cabernet blocks that suffered little from the frost because they are late-ripening. I was counting on this crop to generate some income. I won't be picking anything, as it's a well-known fact that silt-covered grapes do not make good wine”.

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