And that’s not an attempt to be light-hearted, or provide comedic relief — an unseasonal wave of bitter frost and ice hit France after a bout of warm weather. The result? Vines and fruit crops have been devastated, wiping out a third of French wine essentially — that’s almost €2 billion in sales lost (around $3 billion AUD).
The French government have had to declare it an agricultural emergency, and have begun putting emergency financial measures in place. This is a big deal. French agriculture minister, Julien Denormandie, was quoted in The Guardian saying the event “is probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”
Some of the places hit by this environmental destruction include our favourite wines regions, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Provence. And it’s not just the vines, but also other growths — kiwis, apricots, apples, beet, rapeseed and more have suffered.
Attempts were made to save the vineyards, with thousands of small fires and candles lit near vines and trees in an attempt to heat them up — French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted an image of one such vineyard, expressing support for the farmers.
À vous, agriculteurs qui, partout en France, avez lutté sans relâche, nuit après nuit, pour protéger les fruits de votre travail, je veux vous dire notre soutien plein et entier dans ce combat. Tenez bon ! Nous sommes à vos côtés et le resterons. pic.twitter.com/uaW9TmPxYh
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 10, 2021
Michel-Henri Ratte, who produced up to 30,000 bottles a year, told The Guardian that the weather incident was “catastrophic” and that the cold snap wasn’t “normal cold” but more so a “polar cold, much more intense than usual.”
Adding to that, he says they were also damaged by cold snaps in 2017 and 2019, and that the period regularity of it “raises questions about climate change.” He’s looking at a 100% loss on this year’s harvest, and may not produce a single bottle of wine.
And for those reading this, relying on South Australian or Tasmanian wine to pull through — well, wine grapes are at risk of extinction due to climate change here in Australia. In fact, one study found the possibility that 73% of our land could become unsuitable for growing grapes by 2050.