Burgundian wine growers are struggling to salvage as many grapes as possible from a growing season that has been blighted by hail, frost and mildew from day one.

“Every grape counts,” said the Burgundy wine bureau, the BVIB, in its latest 2016 harvest update.

“Various hiccups in the weather left their mark on the vines… nor did the winegrowers have any respite from mildew, which was very present this year,” said the BVIB. “The vines in those plots hardest hit will provide very few or even no grapes at all.”

Total harvest this year is said to be down 20-27% on 2015, which will put further pressure on supplies after a succession of small harvests in recent years.

A frosty year for French wine  

Back in April, Burgundy was hit by its worst frost since 1981, potentially affecting not only the yields of the Burgundy 2016 harvest but also those of 2017.

As with hailstorms, another common affliction of the region, the effects of frost can vary from vineyard to vineyard, but this year they seem to have hit hard and wide.

“It is unusual for a weather event like this to affect such a wide area. The vines of Chablis, the Grand Auxerrois, the Côte de Nuits, the Côte de Beaune, and the Côte Chalonnaise were all touched to a greater or lesser extent. The Mâconnais (already hit by hail earlier that month) was hit by frosts on the morning of 28 April,” said Caroline Parent-Gros of Domaine AF Gros in Pommard.

‘It is also unusual in that the plots and areas that are usually spared the frost were hit this time. Outside of the Burgundy region, this cold spell affected a significant number of other winegrowing regions in both France and the rest of Europe.”

Champagne was also hit. Chardonnay suffered more than Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, and regions affected include Côte de Blancs, the Côte de Sézanne in the southern Marne, and l’Aube region.

Violent hail marrs vintage wines

Chablis, Beaujolais and Cognac were also violently hit by hailstorms in May, proving ‘catastrophic’ for the regions’ grapes.

For some, these were the second hailstorms to hit this year, causing extensive damage to vineyards in the communes of Courgis, Préhy and Chichée in southern Chablis.

The heavy rain that followed meant that winemakers delayed spraying sulphur or comfrey on the leaves, increasing the risk of mildew.

Not all bad for Burgundy wine investment

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news, according to the BVIB. “In general, the vines that escaped the bad weather have produced generous bunches.”

Picking started for Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wines on 10th September, and Burgundy whites and reds began later on in the month.

Growers will need patience, added the BVIB – uneven ripeness and a late start to the picking season will mean that harvest is likely to take longer than usual.