2017 Loire – « très compliqué ! » « plus rien »

Frost destruction: April 2016
For the second successive year the Loire, along with many other vineyards both in France and elsewhere in Europe, has been hit by a series of April frosts. Just as in 2016 it has been a whole series of early morning frosts running over 10 days from 19th April through to 29th April. In some places it was up to five nights of frost in others it was even six.
This pattern of April frosts is strikingly different from before when it tended to be one night of frost as it was with the severe 1991 and the early April frost of 2003. Instead in both 2016 and 2017 Loire producers have faced a succession of frosts often striking different parts of the vineyard on different nights.
Naturally successive frosts are very tiring and dispiriting to fight and the morale of many Loire producers is now low after the last fortnight of April, especially as mild weather in March had brought the vines on early.

This year many Loire producers have fought back against the frost using helicopters, more wind machines than in previous years as well as burning bales of straw. Anything to raise the temperature.

It is still too early to have a full picture of the damage. Nor is the damage evenly spread along the valley. In some places, like Muscadet, the damage is worse than it was last year as it is in Savennières, while overall in Touraine the damage is less than last year. Naturally this is of little comfort to producers who have suffered severe losses with some producers in Muscadet, for example, have lost their entire 2017 crop – ‘plus que rien’ remains.

There are rumours of producers deciding to quit because the succession of difficult years, especially if they have been severely hit by frost two years running. Others able to hang on will have a very complicated year managing how to allocate their greatly reduced stocks and to keep their bankers happy. This is likely to be especially delicate for those producers who have recently made significant investments – in a new winery for example.
François Robin, La fédération des vins de Nantes 
‘The 2017 frosts are more serious than last year with around 40%-50% of our vineyards affected, although we will not have a full picture until the end of this week. Damage is variable depending upon site and how far temperatures fell in particular areas.Unfortunately the heart of the Sèvre-et-Maine – Vallet, Mouzillon, Clisson and La Chapelle-Heulin – are the worst affected. The south of the Sèvre-et-Maine, around Saint-Fiacre, for example, is not as affected nor overall the Coteaux de la Loire and Côtes de Grandlieu.’

Emmanuel Ogereau

Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-duLattay, Anjou)
Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau): “Savennières was wiped out on 27th – only 10% of the crop remains and there is also severe damage in other parts of Anjou, especially around Rochefort-sur-Loire and Chaudefonds-sur-Layon. There was another frost in Savennières the following night but that had little effect as the damage had already been done the night before.

In Saint-Lambert we have lost between 30%-40% with our Chenin being particularly badly hit. Parts of the Coteaux d’Aubance have been seriously affected especially vineyards close to the river.”

Tessa Laroche, Domaine aux Moines, Savennières
Tessa Laroche confirmed Emmanuel’s report on Savennières: « We have lost 80% of our crop. »

Marie-Anne Simonneau, Syndicat de Saumur-Champigny
We had five mornings of frost – April: 20th, 21st, 27th, 28th and 29th. Each time different parts of the appellation were hit including parcels usually are not frosted. Happily not all of the appellation has been hit but equally some domaines have suffered serious losses.
Patrick Vadé: Domaine Saint Vincent Saumur-Champigny (commune of Saumur)
« The damage is worse than last year. There were two episodes of frost. The first particularly on the morning of Thursday 20th April and then the following week for three successive early mornings: 27th, 28th and 29th.The frost on the 20th hit the higher parts of the Saumur-Champigny appellation, which usually escapes the frost. For instance I’ve lost around 15% from my lower slopes. The frosts in the second week – 27th, 28th and 29th – hit the lower parts of the appellation that are prone to frost – St Cyr, Chacé etc. Some producers have lost virtually 100%.

Talking to the Cave Robert et Marcel (the Cave Co-operative of St Cyr) they have lost 20% of their 1800 hectares.

The frost of Saturday 29th was a surprise as the forecast was for + 2 but then for a brief period early in the morning the temperature dropped to minus 2 with a white frost. It all happened very quickly. »

Because of the favourable forecast most producers were tucked up in bed so not in a position to attempt to alleviate this final April frost.

Guillaume Lapaque, Vins de Bourgueil and directeur at Fédération des Associations Viticoles d’Indre-et-Loire et de la Sarthe 
Overall the 2017 frost has been much less devastating in Indre et Loire than in 2016. We calculate that the loss in the département is in the order of 15%, whereas last year it was 50%.

There are, however, areas that have been very badly hit. These include Azay-le-Rideau (over 60% loss) with the exception of Château de l’Aulée which used a helicopter. Touraine Noble Joué has also been hit again – 45% in 2017 and even more last year – 85%. Savigny-en-Véron and Beaumont in Chinon are badly hit with producers losing virtually all their crop. In Touraine Amboise the area around the town was hit – in particular the Domaine la Grange Tiphaine – while Limeray, on the north bank of the Loire, wasn’t affected. Unfortunately losses in Montlouis are around 40%.

This year producers fought back against the frost, while last year they were taken by surprise. We had seventeen helicopters – 7 in Montlouis, 5 in Bourgueil and 5 elsewhere.

The forecast on Saturday 29th was wrong as above freezing temperatures were forecast when instead they fell below zero. Unfortunately we had stood the helicopters down.


Stéphanie Degaugue with Patricia Boucard (right)

Patricia Boucard, Lamé Delisle Boucard
« Fortunately our losses through the frost this year are much less than last year – around 20%. The effects are very variable and seems to depend upon the air currents. We used a helicopter as well as burning bales of straw.

Jacky Blot, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 
« Morale is low. Taking 2016 and 2017 together we have one harvest in two years. Fortunately Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil wasn’t touched. Also our wind machine saved most of the Clos Mosny – 80% of the Clos is OK with just between a hectare and 1.5 hectares affected. Also Clos Michet wasn’t hit but the parcels we use for Rémus are very badly hit. Across in Vouvray we have a 50% loss in Bretonnière with the lower part badly hit.

Inevitably our prices will have to rise with our bankers urging that prices have to go up. This wouldn’t be the case if we regularly had a vintages like 2015 when we made around 37 hl/ha, which is what we aim for.’

Benoît Roumet, director of Bureau du Centre Vignobles du Centre Loire
Benoît reports that it is a mixed picture in the Central Vineyards.
« Pouilly and the Coteaux du Giennois have been hit by the frost but Giennois less than in 2016. The northern part of Sancerre around Sainte-Gemme-en-Sancerrois has been hit. Also Châteaumeillant has been seriously affected. Elsewhere those parts of Quincy not protected by wind machines have losses – but 80% of the appellation has wind machine protection and there are no significant losses in Reuilly.

Menetou-Salon, which was very badly hit last year, has not been hit this year.’       




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