As the harvest in Bordeaux draws to a close, winemakers and chateau owners are wondering how they’ll get through the next several years after Mother Nature decimated their vineyards.
Frost, that mainly hit low-lying vineyards across the entire region in April, destroyed about half of Bordeaux’ budding grapes. Final numbers aren’t in, but most growers surveyed are reporting harvests that are between 50 and 70 percent lower than normal levels due to damaged vines.
Bernard Farges, is the head of the Syndicat des vins Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur, a trade group that represents chateaus and wineries whose bottles generally fetch $25 USD and below. Farges reported to Wine Enthusiast that “We will be at the 2 million euro loss level if the harvest is down by 50 percent,” adding, “[this] will be verified within two months. We can say that more than 80 percent of properties were impacted by frost.”
Alain Faye, co-owner of Château Laville in Saint-Sulpice et Cameyrac is expecting the hardship to linger. Faye stated, “Economically it will be difficult for the next two years. We lost 85 percent of our grapes. Normally we produce 2000 hectoliters [of wine] and this year we have only 300.”
At Château de Reignac in Saint-Loubès, property director Nicolas Lesaint told Wine Enthusiast that the chateau’s white wine production is down from the normal 70 to only 20 hectoliters. After frost that hit on April 24th and 28th this year, Lesaint believed that 80% of the vineyards were destroyed. Wearing muddy boots and pointing at gently sloping vineyards surrounded by tall oaks, he added that a portion of the vineyard that was thought to have been totally decimated had a second generation of leaves, flowers and berries, so there will be an additional slightly delayed harvest on a small portion of the property.
Vincent Gauthier, owner of Château Pertignas in Saint-Vincent-de-Pertignas said that he hasn’t seen a year this “violent” since 2003, adding, “Vineyards that were not frozen at first had a lot of rain, so we had large amounts of rot. Normally we make 14,000 bottles, and this year we will only have 4,000. Extrapolating further, he explained that the chateau’s normal yield of 5,000 to 6,000 bottles per hectare would be severely decreased to 1,000 bottles per hectare.
Ivanhoé Johnston of Nathaniel Johnston & Fils expounded on the effects of the weather, adding, “The better chateaus—like Petrus—are on higher ground. Frost destroyed low ground. As you go downhill, you see losses rise from 20% to 50% to 70%. Some people lost 100% of their crop, while others lost nothing. However, this is a quantity issue, not a quality issue. The wine that is produced will be fine this year.”