Business & Economy

Ice and fire: French winegrowers get creative in bid to rescue harvest

By Christophe Petit-Tesson

Chablis, France, Nov 4 (EPA-EFE).- An intense spring frost — the worst to hit France in decades — forced Paul-Etienne Defaix to stay out in the fields with his vines for eight nights in a row, fighting off sleep to save the fragile buds from the unseasonal cold snap.

The unusually cold spring nights threatened to destroy this year’s wine harvest in France, forcing the country’s winemakers to take extreme measures to offset the damage.

To avert what French agriculture minister Julien Denormandie described as “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century,” Defaix and other viticulturists in the famed Burgundy district of Chablis and across France turned to so-called “anti-frost candles” to keep the vines’ buds as warm as possible.

They also tried to sprinkle the vines with water to coat the buds in a protective layer.

But this process, which is very expensive and inefficient, is not a long-term solution to a problem that will only become more frequent.

It is one of the effects of the climate crisis being felt in Burgundy’s vineyards.

Over the past half century, climate change has changed how wine is produced, with today’s harvests coming one month earlier than in the 1950s.

Warmer temperatures mean buds bloom earlier in the season, but that makes them vulnerable to night frosts that occur later in the spring.

The French agricultural ministry said the spring frost had “cut into a large part of the production, which will be historically low.”

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