The harvest of grapes for Crémant de Bordeaux began Wednesday in the first AOC vineyard of France with 110,000 hectares, even if the plots dedicated to sparkling wine represent only 1% of this area.

While the harvest should last until the end of September, mildew, a half-algae half-fungus parasite, has hit the vineyards of Nouvelle-Aquitaine hard, with 90% of the vines affected on a more or less large scale according to the chambers of agriculture of the region.

"It's very hard for our winegrowers. When you have such tense situations and you come across an episode of late blight... Some have lost almost everything on their farm. The disarray is there," Stéphane Gabard, president of the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC Union, told AFP.

It remains to be seen what the exact impact of late blight will be.

"Nobody knows: we thought at the beginning of June to have a very big harvest, mid-July very low, and there on the crémants it is rather better than we thought," comments Christophe Chateau, director of communication of the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux Wine (CIVB).

"It is certain that with mildew, a large part of the harvest is gone," confirms Stéphane Gabard.

The latter considers plausible losses that would be between 20 and 50%, without wanting to advance on a definitive figure, because "it is heterogeneous according to the sectors, more or less broken down".

"Fortunately, mildew does not impact the quality of the grapes," he says, saying that the temperature conditions during the summer can presage "a beautiful vintage".

"Early vintages are often ripe vintages. It's pretty good," he said.

The Bordeaux vineyard is the subject of a €57 million grubbing-up plan co-financed by the State and the CIVB to regulate supply, restore prices and avoid the development of diseases in abandoned vines.

According to pre-applications submitted in mid-July, nearly 10,000 hectares of vines should be uprooted after the harvest.

The France also subsidizes the destruction of surplus red and rosé wines by distillation. The Bordeaux and Languedoc basins are the first applicants.

© 2023 AFP