‘Fireball’ wipes out vineyards in south of France

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

08 July 2019

As if springtime frosts, beetles and mildew weren’t enough, France’s vignerons now have to contend with ‘fireballs’.

Last week’s boule de feu heat spike saw hottest-ever temperatures across the country and left some vineyards in the south of the country looking like they’d been singed by a blowtorch. Some growers lost all their crop, and levels of 40% vineyard damage were widely reported.

The problems started on 29 June, when temperatures rose to over 40°C across the south of France.

‘Vines just couldn’t cope with the heat,’ said Katie Jones of Domaine Jones. ‘They were literally frazzled with some farmers losing their entire crop. I can feel the heartbreak for those growers who suffered as the vines were looking particularly good this year.’

Worst affected were young vines, with shallow roots, vines on poor, well-drained soils, and rocky soil that amplified the heat. Older vines or those in lower-lying land tended to cope rather better.

Overall losses are still being calculated, but the impact is likely to be severe.

As well as grape bunches being singed by the heat, the extreme temperatures have had an effect on the leaves, too.

‘There are parcels where the grapes are still there, but the leaves have fallen off. How are those vines going to get through the summer? We’re only at the start of July and they already look like they do in September,’ Nicolas Viguier told the French trade website, Vitisphere.

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