Bordeaux: 2017 vintage hit by catastrophic frost

by Charles Lea

Over the last two nights, with danger still present, the Bordeaux vineyard has been hit hard by a very destructive frost. Temperatures descending as low as -5C have done massive damage to the nascent buds and some vineyards have lost the entire 2017 crop.

Reports suggest that the worst affected areas are low-lying or just flat vineyards on the right bank. Top crus that have been affected include Cheval Blanc, Conseillante, Lafleur, but it is worse yet in the ‘satellite’ appellations of Saint Emilion, such as Montagne, Puisseguin, Castillon and Lalande de Pomerol, where our long-term favourite Château Perron reports 100% loss. The lower vineyards of Fronsac are also in the disaster zone.

Some Châteaux with huge resources have deployed them – Pétrus had 1500 ‘candles’ (probably more like tins full of paraffin) and seems to have been saved, Cheval Blanc was using helicopters to move the freezing air.

In Pessac-Léognan the vineyard that are in town like Haut Brion, and Carmes seem to be fine, but Fieuzal is said to have lost 70%. One fears for the likes of Haut Bailly and Domaine de Chevalier.

In the Médoc the damage seems to be less comprehensive, and to have affected vines further from the river, so Palmer and Brane report damage, but not on their best vines on the plateau. Angludet would appear to have been hit. In Saint Julien Branaire seems to have been hit this morning, and Lagrange was saying that it would make only 30% of a normal crop of its second wine ‘Fiefs‘. The white wines in the Médoc seem to have been particularly hard-hit – it seems unlikely that either Arums de Lagrange or Blanc de Lynch Bages will be made in 2017.

Our main concern is for the producers we know on the right bank – Mathieu Ternault, just taking on Château Montaiguillon in Montagne Saint Emilion from his mother Chantal who tragically died earlier this year, Pierre Taïx who has been hit in all three sites where he has vines, is facing between 50% and 80% loss. To the other side of the Dordogne from Saint Emilion, Joël Duffau who makes Château La Mothe du Barry was interviewed by Franceinfo ‘Nouvelle Acquitaine’ and said “On Thursday 3 hectares were frosted, on Friday 11 hectares and I think that today is going to be not the end, but not far…. I was passionate, but now I am … not depressed … but not far.” See the video interview with Joel here:

This is not the only part of the vinous world to be affected. This morning we received grim news from Rioja too, as Arturo de Miguel Blanco of Bodegas Artuke sent us three photographs this sad note “We like being winemakers but when you wake up like this morning and see the thermometer at -3 degrees you feel helpless. What nature gives us sometimes sometimes takes away from us, and this year has been one of those. The problem is that we will leave with fewer bottles.”

Artuke frosted vine