The weather in the Languedoc over the past couple of weeks has been extraordinary. We have woken up to brilliant cloudless skies and by midday warm sunshine, but first thing in the morning, despite the sunlight, the temperatures have been bracing, as low yesterday morning as 1°C, making a difference of about 20° between early morning and mid-afternoon temperatures. I was out walking near Montagnac on Thursday morning and the route inevitably past vineyards and suddenly I spotted some very unhappy vines, with leaves that were green going on black and all soggy and limp. They reminded me of those of a Busy Lizzie that I had inadvertently left outside on a chilly night. I've never seen frosted vines before and they are certainly not something that you would expect to see in the south of France, but a conversation later in the day confirmed that was just what they were.
Yesterday morning I spoke to Catherine Roque of Domaine de Clovallon and she told me that two plots of her vines had been frosted overnight, on Thursday night, a Viognier on a low slope and some Pinot Noir by a stream. She was not sure what the long term impact would be and the last time this had happened was 10 years ago.
And then I read the Midi Libre, the fountain of all local knowledge in the Languedoc and there was a headline: .Le gel frappe l'Aude. Frost hits the Aude. Overnight frost during the night of Thursday 20th April had seriously impacted the vineyards, affecting Minervois, Corbières and Malepère. Nobody had been spared. Thanks to the rain earlier in the year and the warm sunshine, the vines are about two weeks ahead of normal, with the young bunches already formed and preparing to flower. No doubt quantity will be considerably affected.
In more northern vineyards like Chablis, they are equipped to combat frost with smudge pots or chaufferettes, and systems of aspersion, whereby the vines are sprayed so that the young shoots are encased in a coating of ice, but such measures are expensive to install, and really not practical or relevant to conditions in the Languedoc. As Katie Jones, from Domaine Jones in Tuchan in the heart of the Corbières hills, put it, you just have to trust to good luck.