What exactly does the frost mean for Harvest 2017?

Harsh frosts in French vineyards – what exactly does it mean for Harvest 2017?

A friend asked what does the frost do so this post seeks to take my previous post on the frost a little deeper. When temperatures goes below zero the spring growth gets frozen and dies. It is like when a human gets frostbite – that digit or part is damaged and can be so bad that it needs to be amputated. The vines shoots have died. Now all we can hope for is that another shoot starts but this probably won’t be a fruiting shoot and even if it does fruit it will be so far behind that it is unlikely to reach useful ripeness.

On the upside we can be thankful that it was not cold enough to kill the vines – in 1956 a terrible frost killed many fruit trees and vines in France.


Chateau Feely Saussignac Frost damage April 2017

Back to our specific situation with some photos. This of the worst hit vineyard – a small triangle of merlot where we think we will get nothing this season. But as I said – the vines are not dead and they should produce normally in 2018.


This next photo is a close up of the baby cabernet sauvignon that has been used for our rose for the last few years. It is young and on a very exposed plot so has been hit badly by the frost. We may get a few bunches in the front section of the parcel. It was due to start being part of our Verité pure cab sauv from 2017 … given the frost there wont be a verite in 2017.


Another pan of the sorry looking baby cabernet vineyard.


This photo is of the sauvignon blanc plateau vineyard where the bottom 60% is badly damaged. This mean less sincerite  in 2017… With half the 2016 already sold that is particularly bad news.

Our assessment now is that we will be down about 45% overall for harvest 2017. That’s bad news when your costs are fixed and you have to keep farming the vines even where they won’t be fruiting.

We are fortunate that we bottle our wine and commercialise it ourselves- this means we can smooth the loss over a few years. For those who sell in the bulk market the loss will be realised in one go- for those who have lost a significant part of their harvest it will be a very difficult year.

There are short term aids being discussed by the chamber of Agriculture and the MSA to help people in difficulty but they are short term plasters.

If you read Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France ( Caro Feely book 2 ) 

you know it starts with the frost of 2008… Caro’s latest book Glass Half Full: The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France (Caro Feely Book 3) starts with hail in 2013. (they follow Caro’s first book Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France (Caro Feely Book 1) ). Each time there is a calamity I remind myself it is great material for a book. I love to look on the bright side. Glass Half Full anyone?

There is nothing simple or sure about farming but we love it.

Summersdale publishers have also made the 3 book series available as a bundle for the UK market Caro Feely (3 Book Series). You can also find Caro’s easy reading book on Wine here:
Wine: The Essential Guide to Tasting, History, Culture and More by Caro Feely (2015-11-12)

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Showing 2 comments
  • Doris Stephens

    We had heard about the freeze in France and were hoping your vineyard wasn’t affected. We’ll pray that there is minimal damage. Please keep us updated.

    Just to refresh your memory, we were neighbors of your sister in Rancho Mirage and visited you in 2019. Last year we had planned on spending 6 months at our rental in Castlenaud-la-Chapelle but that wasn’t to be due COVID. We’re hoping for this year…

  • Caro FEELY

    Thanks for your thoughts Doris. After the frost of the mornings of 7 and 8 April 2021 we have lost close to 50% of our Cabernet sauvignon. The rest of better off – perhaps 10%. More frost is forecast for next week so we are not out of the woods yet. merci.

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