02 May 2016

Bad news for grape growers in western Touraine

There was a significant freeze in Touraine in the latter part of April, just at the time when the Loire Valley vines were starting to produce vulnerable new leaf buds. Reports are that as many as 100% of the vines have suffered frostbite in some areas around Tours. Losses in the Montlouis, Bourgueil, and Saint-Nicolas appellations may amount to two-thirds of the crop, and in Chinon it's feared that half the 2016 crop has been wiped out. Frost damage in the Vouvray vineyards is spotty but significant. The extent of the damage takes some time to assess.

This is a photo I took in the Renaudière vineyard outside Saint-Aignan on the morning of April 18.

This time of year, the valleys are colder than the higher terrain in the Touraine region. Where we are, just outside Saint-Aignan, we've seen little evidence of damage to new growth on the vines from the recent cold weather. We haven't recorded temperatures as low as freezing on our own thermometer, while temperatures dropped to the hard freeze level — minus 4ºC (25ºF) or lower — in many nearby areas.

This one is from today's morning walk with Callie.

On my walks through the Renaudière vineyard with Callie I've been looking at leaf buds and they seem to have been spared. So much so that I didn't even realize there had been a heavy frost and freeze in the region until I heard it on the France 2 TV national news a few days ago.

April 18, 2016, in the Renaudière vineyard

For once, the wind was our friend. We live up on a pretty high hill, above the Cher River Valley, and one disadvantage for us is that our house is buffeted by the prevailing westerly winds most of the year. In weather conditions like last week's, however, wind prevents frost damage because it evens out temperatures at ground level. The cold air doesn't settle on the ground but is blown away. Even in winter, it is often colder down in the river valley than it is up here on high ground (les coteaux in French). It seems counter-intuitive, but it's the reality.

Morning fog down in the river valley at Mareuil-sur-Cher

Meanwhile, Walt leaves today for his American trip. He'll have an afternoon in Paris, an Air Canada flight to Montréal tomorrow, and then a 4-hour drive down to his home town of Albany, NY, on Thursday. He'll be meeting up with friends in Montréal and then spending time with family and friends in the Albany area for about two weeks. I'll be staying here to take care of the dog, the cat, and all the plants, inside and out.


  1. That is devastating news. So bad for the growers - Surely the vines will re-shoot as the weather warms but perhaps it will be too late for the grapes to ripen this year?
    We have noticed, as we have driven around this holiday, how patchy the growth rate seems to be on the vines and assumed it was because of different varieties.
    We had 2 wonderful gite holidays in the later 1970's at Montlouis with a lovely friendly farming family who let us help with the haymaking and showed us all their strips of grapes and their winestore in the tuffa caves. Monsieur had a special narrow tractor and attachments including a very thin combine harvester, as all farming was in strips in that area then. It was ridiculous, really, as the various strips for each family were all over the area and very inefficient. Not just for vines, but also for the wheat and sunflowers which he also grew. He told us it was French inheritance laws that split the land up between the heirs each generation, which had caused the situation.
    We notice it is very different now with large fields and more unified crops and assume it is the Common Agricultural Policy which has changed things? We still see the small strips of vines in the middle of large fields.

  2. Terrible news for the growers :(
    I just saw your mayonnaise video -- excellent :) Thanks so much for posting that.
    Bon voyage, Walt!

  3. When we visited Vignoble Dinocheau the day we met you and Walt for dinner, Laurence Dinocheau said she was worried about a possible frost on the 17-18th. I suspect they were spared the worst of that one, but the one the evening of April 26-27 may have been worse. Apparently some places were very badly hit that night.

    1. I think I got my dates wrong. I was in a hurry this morning and I knew something was not right but I went ahead and published anyway. Sorry. I remember that the 26th was very cold because I was over in Montrichard that day and out walking around. I've modified my post.

  4. Replies
    1. It's true, but you'd think the river valley would be warmer, with the cold tempered by the warmer river water. That's not the case here, even in winter. A few years ago, we had a hard freeze. I notice a lot of plants and leaves "burned" by the cold down the hill toward the river, but we had no such damage up here.

  5. I worry about what is happening with our climate. Even with el niño we are not getting the moisture and now we have to worry about cold snaps.

    Ken, I found this post about growing cucumber and squash on an arch and thought of you two. http://getbusygardening.com/easy-homemade-arch-trellis/ I don't have room for a garden, but if I did I would be giving this a try. Maybe someday.

    1. What a clever idea. It would work well for peas, too, I imagine. The pods are always so hard to find in the greenery down at ground level.

    2. Walt grew cukes on a trellis last year, and right now he has snow peas planted so they will climb that same trellis. Let's hope it works and that we get a bumper crop.

  6. Oh no! The wine industry in France is strong, but it is hard when there is so much damage in one year.

    I made some mayo! I started with a fork, but then changed to a small wisk - much easier. we had it with scallops...mmmm.

    1. That sounds really good. Scallops, yum. Yeah, it's too bad about the grapes. There were big spring freezes back in 1991 and 1994, too, and again in 2012, I think it was. I never even suspected that it happened, because we felt no ill effects here outside Saint-Aignan, despite predictions of frost and a freeze. I thought it just hadn't happened, the forecasts were wrong, until I saw a report on the noontime news from Paris.


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