Cause for concern among French wine fans as 'very serious' frost threatens crop

French grapevine farms have been lighting candles in their fields in a bid to thaw crops and save this year's wine. Credit: AP

There is cause for concern among fans of French wine as a "very serious" late frost is threatening to ruin this year's crop.

Winegrowers have been lighting anti-frost candles in their fields in a bid to thaw frozen plants after a similar situation last year cost French grapevine farmers an estimated two billion Euros (approximately £1.7 billion).

French grapevine farmers are hoping to avoid a similar situation to last year, when weather caused the sector to lose hundreds of millions. Credit: AP

Fruit growers are worried the frost will kill off large numbers of early buds, which appeared in March as temperatures rose above 20C, before dropping to minus 7C in places recently.

Last year's April frost led to what the French government described as “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century" and the current weather is once again threatening to disrupt the whole growing season.

The Burgundy region of France - which produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties of wine - has been particularly hard hit by cold weather, with one farmer there describing it as “a very, very serious frost".

A wine grower lights up a large anti-frost candle in a vineyard of the Jura region, central France. Credit: AP

Vinter Daniel Defaix has lined his fields with paraffin candles or set up special irrigation systems to protect about five hectares of his most valuable grand cru and premier cru grapes - but had to leave the remaining 25 hectares to face the forces of nature.

“After that, you have to cross your fingers and pray to God,” he told The Associated Press.

Some farmers have also been spraying their crops with water to cover them in a layer of ice, which protects them from frost.

Spraying crops with water can protect them from frost by covering them in ice. Credit: AP

Last year's damaging temperatures have been attributed to man-made climate change, with scientists assessing that warm weather coaxed the plants into exposing their young leaves early, before a blast of Arctic cold reached Europe in April and frosted the buds.

Crops have also been hit by cold weather in Switzerland and the Netherlands, with cherries, apricots and plums - which are currently at a "delicate stage" of their life cycle - at risk.