Heatwave in France scorches vineyards

Vineyards in the South of France have been damaged in the scorching heatwave and some vines “appear to have been blowtorched”, according to reports.

Vineyards in Hérault, in the Languedoc-Roussillon area, and Gard in the Rhône have seen temperatures reach more than 45° in the shade, and some have reported burn damage to grapes. Winemakers in Vaucluse, Villeveyrac, Fabrègues and the Pic Saint-Loup area have also been badly hit, with damage to some old vines, including Carignan.

President of the Hérault chamber of commerce, Jérôme Despey, who is also a winemaker, said: “Temperatures reached such levels that the vines appear to have been blowtorched – literally grilled. Grapes were burned and the leaves dried out.”

He said he is planning to approach the emergency unit at the departmental chamber of agriculture to get a full assessment of the damage after temperatures rose to 48° in his vineyard last week. He contacted French wine website Vitisphere to report that his 6ha of Carignan grapes were particularly badly damaged, with losses of 60-80%.

He said: “Vines usually resist heat, but with the levels reached last week, winemaking is paying a large price. This is something I have never lived through. I have been a winemaker for 30 years. I have never seen a vine burned by a heatwave like this. It is impressive.”

In the Rhône the worst affected areas are the Gard and Vaucluse. Julien Ducruet, technical specialist for Inter Rhône, said the heatwave had brought temperatures of 47° to vineyards in the area, with the main damage appearing on plots facing west and south west.

He noted that the heat came at a very sensitive moment for the vines, “when the leaves and grapes are green and very tender”, although he added hat, to date, the damage across the Rhône region appears to be lower than in other areas.

Others in France have also been battling with the high temperatures but have managed to protect the grapes from damage.

Ruth Simpson, owner of Domaine Sainte Rose in the Languedoc, told DRN: “It is not that unusual for the temperature to reach 40 degrees during the peak of the summer at Sainte Rose, and although we hit 44° for one day, it wasn’t enough to damage our vines.

“Our saving grace is that we also have drip irrigation so that we can balance heat with water, but to be honest the temperature hasn’t been consistently high enough to have a detrimental effect.

“We have received heatwave warnings from the government, but more addressing working hours and supply of water and shade to our employees. Our vineyard team at Sainte Rose has been working from 5.30am to 12 noon for the past three weeks in order to avoid the hottest part of the day.”

Small wildfires triggered by the heatwave have also affected some areas in France.

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