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Frost in Burgundy


I spent two days last week in Burgundy which made me love this wonderful region more than ever.

I visited five domaines and, notwithstanding the devastation that the frost had wreaked on their vines, the vignerons all managed to be extraordinarily upbeat and optimistic.

With Jean-Pierre Charlot of Domaine Joseph Voillot

This new disaster to hit the region was caused by three elements coming together: continuous rain on the 26th April meant that the buds were soaked through; a clearing in the weather and rapid drop in temperature to -2°C by 4am on the 27th; followed by a bright cloudless day and terrible sun-damage burning the frozen buds. If there had been cloud cover as dawn broke the damage would have been minimal. Sadly there wasn’t, and as a result from Chablis to Santenay the frost damage was the worst since 1956.


Nature is not only cruel but also random. Certain vineyards have been spared, others will produce no wine at all. At this stage it is impossible to make an accurate prediction of what the various appellations and vineyards will yield. However, what is certain is that it will be a very small vintage indeed, causing immense problems for the growers and for the market.


The method of guyot pruning used in Burgundy plans for 2 years’ growth. A hard spring frost will damage not only the current year’s nascent leafy buds, but also stunt the latent buds of the following year’s growth. We should therefor expect reduced yields for 2017 as well as 2016.

As to the quality, all is to play for. Perhaps it will be like 1961 in Bordeaux when, despite a spring frost reducing yields, the quality was superb. We live in hope.