Frost episodes:
our analysis and prospects
for the 2021 vintage

Between the 6th and the 8th of April, France was hit with a severe frost episode that had an impact on all of its vineyards in a historic way. 80% of the country’s vineyards have been affected by extreme temperatures that will have consequences on the 2021 vintage. Overview and situation analysis.

image gelBetween the 6th and the 8th of April, France was hit with a severe frost episode affecting all of its vineyards in a historic way. According to the National Wine Trade Committee (CNIV), 80% of France’s vineyards have been affected. All the means implemented to fight the frost had been activated by the winemakers to heat up the air around the vines and to protect the buds as much as possible: water sprinkling, candles and braziers, windmills and even helicopters to move the hot air around and lift it.

The regions of Alsace and Roussillon have been somewhat spared, while other regions have suffered more. Bordeaux’s vineyards were partially affected (about 20%). Burgundy and Rhône Valley also experienced extreme temperatures going down to -5 or -6°C. Jean Soubeyrand, director of the Domain Olivier Leflaive, stated that: “We didn’t have time to look at 100% of the vines, but in Puligny-Montrachet, some plots will not produce wine.” Quentin Chaperon, operations director at U’Wine, visited the winemakers in Burgundy last week. Indeed, he was able to observe buds that were too damaged for a possible regrowth. In this highly affected area, candles were lit at 9 PM to be able to fight the cold throughout the night.

Unfortunately, it is still too early to determine the exact impact it will have on the 2021 vintage. A number of buds may have the chance to grow back but this highly depends on the stage of development of the vine (maturity, exposure, the presence of “cotton”, the villosity of the bud that protects it from the cold) and the terroir (precocity, sensitivity to the cold, natural coolness…). The Grands Crus will certainly be able to endure the consequences of low production for the 2021 vintage, given their solidity and reputation, but the situation will be more complicated for small estates and independent winegrowers. The government announced the activation of an agricultural disaster regime and launched a plan of action to financially support the sector in the coming months.

In any case, 2021 will be the year with a lower yield than the last two years, which has several consequences on the Grands Crus market:

    • Medium term: when the 2021 vintage becomes available on the consumption market in about three years’ time, its limited quantities will push traders to compensate for the profit loss from other vintages, namely 2019 and 2020. These vintages should therefore increase in value, especially as they are of a very high quality.
    • Long term: a vintage with limited production can nevertheless be an interesting one in terms of wine value, like the 2013 vintage. Indeed, its rarity will peak buyer’s interest.