Anne Moreau

Anne Moreau: Nurturing nature

13 January, 2022

The winemakers of Chablis scrambled to light candles in a bid to protect their budding vines from severe spring frosts in the early hours of April 6, 2021.

Temperatures dropped below zero, sparking panic among vignerons across Burgundy, the Rhône, the Languedoc, and many other regions. Spring frosts are by no means a new phenomenon in France, but climate change has caused vine buds to ripen earlier in the growing cycle, and they are then killed o when the temperature plunges.

In 2021, the Chardonnay vines were more advanced in their vegetative growth than the Pinot Noir vines, so losses were more severe within Chablis. The total region lost half of its crop, while some producers lost 70%.

Anne and Louis Moreau were able to save their Grand Crus by ring up a series of electric cables that generate heat. They are tied on strings to the wires between the vines, producing heat for up to 30cm in diameter, which prevents the delicate young buys from doom. However, at a cost of around €35,000 per hectare, it only makes sense to use these cables on the best plots, such as the Grand Cru vineyards, which yield wines that fetch high prices.

For the rest of the vines, they had to take their chances with the candles. “We used the candles, but it’s difficult,” says Anne Moreau. “In France, we only have one producer now, and all the regions used the candles, so there was not much stock. We also burnt the straw bunches, but that produces smog and it’s not as efficient. The fog it produces can be dangerous for drivers in the area.” 

Freezing temperatures returned in the early morning hours of April 7 and April 8, and the terrible frost did not end until April 12. But that was not the end of the drama. “Spring and summer played with our nerves, because it was very wet and mild,” says Moreau.

Many vines had started to recover, but an intense hailstorm in June caused more damage, while rain and disease also played their part in an extremely difficult year. Wine production throughout France will fall by 29% compared to 2020, to stand at 33.3 million hectolitres, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Burgundy was more heavily affected.

“Overall we are looking at 900,000 to 950,000hl of production, compared to a normal crop of 1.2 million hl,” says Moreau, who serves as president for the communication commission at Burgundy’s generic body, the BIVB. “It’s down 30% to 50%, depending on where you are. Some regions were less affected, and others lost a lot.”

Indeed, losses in Pouilly-Fuissé could be 70-90%, the whites of Côte de Beaune are estimated to be down by 70-80%, and there were declines of around 50% in Chablis and the Mâconnais.


For Moreau, the primary emotion is frustration. “Vintage 2021 will be a classic,” she says. “Very similar to 2014. It is a very fresh, mineral and balanced vintage. It was a very small crop, but it’s in very good condition.

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