Wildfires: Provence wine producers assess impact of destruction

Wildfires that started last week are causing concern among rosé winemakers in south-east France. Strong winds fanned the fire that started in the Var region, close to the French Riviera.

The CIVP, the Provence wine producers’ group, said it was unclear how much harm had been done and that in-depth examinations were being conducted. According to the BBC, any disruption in supply is expected to raise prices.

The National Federation of Agricultural Workers’ Unions (FNSEA) warned on Thursday that while the fires primarily affected forests, certain wine-growing regions were also severely impacted.
It estimated that 73 wineries and 5 cooperatives were involved.

The Maison Mirabeau winery was founded by Eany and Stephen Cronk. In 2019, the pair purchased Domaine Mirabeau, their own vineyard. Mr Cronk stated, “There are three vines near to us that have been entirely destroyed, it’s very heartbreaking”.

The vineyards, barns, and surrounding forest at the Domaine have all been damaged. Thousands of people have fled wildfires along the French Riviera. Smoke taint may not be readily visible, therefore the impact on their produce is unknown. “We don’t know if we’ll harvest or not,” he remarked. „It breaks my heart. We’ve already had two ‘once-in-a-generation’ frosts, and now the worst forest fire in decades is on its way.”

“We need to think more about climate change and whether or not we are doing enough to conserve these forests,” Mr Cronk added. “We hope that this serves as a further reminder that such disasters will become more often and destructive. We must do everything we can to keep this from happening again.”

He believes that, depending on the extent of the damage, the impact on supply could drive up the price of wines from the region. He also believes that landowners near protected forest areas should be allowed to clear encroaching shrubs and establish firebreaks to lessen the risk.

The main road linking the estates had been briefly stopped for safety reasons, according to Alexis Cornu, head winemaker at the MDCV group of estates and vineyards in Provence, but the fire had not reached their structures due to the hard effort of firemen.

Mr Cornu stated that no supply disruptions are envisaged in the following weeks. The fires, however, had not yet been totally extinguished. When the time comes, the crew aims to use a drone to assess how the vines have fared. However, now that the power and water have been restored, they expect to be able to begin harvesting in the coming days.

Mr Cornu remarked, “So far so good, it looks green.” He expressed dissatisfaction with the laws prohibiting bush cutting or clearing, claiming that the risk level around the estates had been rising for years.

The latest issue confronting French winemakers is fire. Rare heavy frosts killed grapevine buds in the vineyards of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, and the Rhône region in April.

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