Recent frost poses a serious threat for Loire producers

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Drinks: Drinks, Wines

For the third time in four years, parts of the Loire have been hit by a serious frost. With temperatures falling as low as -5 °C near Saumur, 2019 has joined 2016 and 2017 when April frosts have had serious impacts on crop levels.

The western part of the Loire – from Tours to the Atlantic – has been worst affected. Serious losses up to 60%-80% for some are reported from parts of Muscadet, Anjou, Saumur, Chinon, Bourgueil and Touraine. For the moment Vouvray, Montlouis, the Cher Valley, the main source of Touraine Sauvignon, and the Central Vineyards – Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé etc. – have not been hit or suffered serious losses.

Monday 1 April saw a lethal weather combination. ‘It rained Wednesday,’ explained Vincent Ogereau (Anjou). ‘The skies cleared, temperatures fell to -2 °C. All the vines were white due to the humidity. Then the ice around the buds magnified the sun’s rays burning them. We have been very badly hit.’ Thursday 4 April was also Vincent’s son’s 30th birthday – restrained celebrations, to say the least.

There was another frost early Monday 8 April, with Antoine Sanzay (Saumur-Champigny) estimating a possible 30% loss.

Unfortunately, this is still early April and possible frosts are forecast for this coming weekend – 12-14 April. Traditionally the threat of frost runs until the Saintes de Glace, which in 2019 ends on 13 May.

It is too early to know the extent of the damage. Fortunately 2018 was a generous vintage – replacing depleted stocks after 2016/2017 – but availability will be reduced and some may go out of business.

Even long-established wine producers like Lamé Delisle Boucard (Bourgueil) are worried: ‘We have stock but we can’t go on like this year after year,’ said Patricia Boucard.

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