The small and controlled fires that Burgundy winegrowers lit in April to save their vineyards from frost were both a necessity and an alert.
Chablis, France, Sep 27 (EFE).- Having to ignite fires to save their vineyards from frost in April was a clear and loud wake-up call for Burgundy wine-growers. The climate crisis is moving fast and the industry must find an immediate solution to save their grapes. But after the French ministry of agriculture reported the country is experiencing the biggest agricultural catastrophe of the century, the sector understood that a profound transformation was needed in order to survive.
On average, the industry has seen a 30 to 40% loss in production according to estimates by the ministry, and some of the worst affected appellations have lost 100% of their yield. Wine production this year is expected to be historically low and down 29% compared to 2020, according to the official data.
Chablis, a town in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and home to one of the world’s best-known white wines, was one of the worst affected. For winegrowers in the region, climate change has not always been bad. In the last 40 years, the rise in temperatures has resulted in the agricultural land extending from 700 hectares to almost 6,000.
But more recent weather phenomena have been less welcome. “We are entering a second and more complicated phase,” Damien Leclerc, general manager of the La Chablisienne cooperative, told Efe. Now, the biggest enemy is frost, which puts everything at risk, he added.
To protect their vines from frost, wine-growers have resorted to fires. But the cost of electricity and each fire, between 8-10 euros per blaze, is too high for farmers in the region to sustain. Some 600 fires are needed per hectare and the electricity used to heat up the air surrounding the vines is equally expensive, leaving wine-growers unable to maintain their vineyards.
Daniel-Étienne Defaix, the owner of one of the oldest estates in Chablis, had to choose which wine to save due to a lack of resources. He lost 90% of its lowest range of wines while managing to save the same amount of the top range. The sector predicts that by 2050, global warming will have changed both the conditions of production and its organoleptic characteristics, as well as the market.
Innovation is key for French wine-growers, who must come up with new practices that will maintain the high-quality reputation of France’s wines. The priority is to improve knowledge and increase research on the wine-growing areas and their cartography. Wine-growers must also limit water consumption and opt for more resistant grape varietals that can endure climate change. "The environment and ecology are not exclusive to political parties.
It must become indispensable for everyone. If we mobilize everyone, we will find solutions, but we have to do it quickly," Leclerc urged. While some are open to change, others are not so keen on changing traditions. "We have 2,000 years of history and I can't stand the idea of changing it for a year of frost. I am in love with my land and I have a duty to respect my heritage and history," Defaix said.
Text and images courtesy of EFEPodría interesarte