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Centre Frost, April 2017

After an extensive look at the 2017 frost damage in Muscadet, Anjou and Touraine, we come finally to the vineyards in Centre. These included some of the Loire Valley’s most famous appellations, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, as well as the less-widely appreciated Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, Quincy and the like.

I spoke first with Stéphane Gerardin, of Henri Bourgeois. This long-established family firm is based in Chavignol, and is best known for its various cuvées of Sancerre, but they have vines dotted across many of the other Centre appellations, and through their work as a négociant they take fruit from many other regions.

Stéphane told me, “The frost particularly hit Pouilly this year. It also affected various spots around Sancerre, but – like last year – not as bad as Pouilly. Our vines suffered significant damage despite the collective efforts of the vignerons to fight the frost. We lit fires and burnt candles or bales of straw at the end of the night to try to warm the air around the vines, and we moved the air using wind turbines where possible. It is sadly too soon to estimate the level of damage, but it is clear that the harvest will be reduced”. It seems that the northern and eastern sectors were worst hit, including Sainte-Gemme, Sury-en-Vaux, Maimbray, Chaudenay, Verdigny and Thauvenay, with some vineyards 100% damaged.

Frost 2017

Also in Sancerre, Thibaut Boulay and I spoke a week ago about the situation there. Thibaut is the son of Gérard Boulay. “It is always difficult to state the exact proportion of buds killed by the frost. In Chavignol, the slopes have been relatively spared. It is at the base of the slopes that the damage is most marked. On these vulnerable parts, we can estimate a loss of 20% to 25%”. Thibaut was another to highlight the more significant damage in Pouilly this year. “The damage sadly seems more significant there, despite the measures taken”.

The level of damage in Pouilly is made plain by a bulletin released locally, which Stéphane forwarded to me. “In Pouilly at least one-third of the vineyard has had more than 80% damage, and one-third has between 30% and 70% damage”. This seems very extensive, at a similar level to the damage done in Montlouis.

Looking elsewhere, I also spoke to Bertrand Minchin (pictured above), of La Tour Saint-Martin. It was last Thursday that we spoke. “Up until today the vineyards of Menetou-Salon have been spared. It is not the case in Valençay though, where I have lost two-thirds of my red crop, and one-third of the white”. Sadly, even with Menetou-Salon spared, I am sure the loss of a large percentage in Valençay, especially taking into account the frost damage also suffered last year, will make things difficult for Bertrand.

The vignerons of Centre-Val-de-Loire, and indeed all those along the Loire Valley, and of course those who have suffered in other regions in France and Germany, remain foremost in my thoughts this week.

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