Vineyards get financial support after frost damaged most of the 2021 crops throughout France. Vineyards take up 62% of all agricultural land in Aude, the department in which Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois is based.
At this time of year you can see lots of activity in the vineyards from our roof terrace. Small tractors are busy ploughing false rocket, a plant grown as a green fertiliser, into the soil.
Sadly, vineyards across France lost most of their crops to frost last week. Aude was no exception, with vineyards reporting the loss of 50-75% of this year’s crop overnight.
The French Prime Minister is visiting the region today to promise that vineyards get financial support worth 1bn euros. It is particularly the small producers who can’t afford to take measures to protect the vines, because the wine they produce doesn’t generate enough income. Measures taken elsewhere include keeping the vines wet to protect them with a thin layer of ice, lighting candles and parafin heaters throughout the vineyards, and creating bonfires.
Some have blamed climate change for the late frost. In reality, climate change is more responsible for the early growth on the vines. Frost at this time of year is not unusual, but because the vines start to produce foliage earlier in the season the damage is far more extensive than it would have been in previous years.
The region does not often get hard frosts, but when it does the results can be devastating. In February 1956 France faced a whole month of temperatures more commonly associated with Siberia. A frost of -20 degrees meant that most olive trees and many vines died within days. The damage was all the worse because an unusually mild January meant early growth on vines and olive trees.
Out of a total of 8 million olive trees on 50,000 acres in the south of France, only 3 million survived. Some olive cooperatives remained inactive for 14 years after that. Today, there are an estimated 26 million olive trees in France, on 168,000 acres.