Frosts Hit European Vineyards. Germany Worst Affected

The late frosts that struck Europe's wine regions on the nights of 22 and 23 April 2024 hit Germany particularly severely.

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According to initial findings, the Moselle is one of the worst affected regions alongside the eastern German regions (Photo: Hendgen)
According to initial findings, the Moselle is one of the worst affected regions alongside the eastern German regions (Photo: Hendgen)

Of the frosts there is no doubt—what is yet unknown is the extent of the damage.

“We will know more once the insurance companies’ damage assessors have completed their inspections of the vineyards,” explains a wine commissioner from the Pfalz.

It is already clear, however, that many German wine-growing regions have been affected. Notably, the frost was airborne rather than ground level, which is particularly treacherous since the vines were already unusually well-developed this season.

Vereinigte Hagelversicherung (an insurance company specialising in hail) is currently working on a more detailed picture. A spokesperson said that the insurance company has received damage reports from across Germany and estimates the wine industry damage at roughly €500m.

The coming weeks will be critical, especially with May and the period of the Ice Saints—when late frosts can appear— approaching. It is still too early for a definitive assessment.

The situation in other European countries

Frost damage reports are also coming in from outside Germany. Austria, France, and Italy report varying degrees of impact.

Austria

In Austria, frost damage was spread from the Weinviertel to Southern Styria. While many growers have mitigated damage using frost candles, the costs are substantial. According to the Austrian wine magazine Vinaria, effectively using frost candles costs approximately €6,000 per hectare.

France

The French industry service Vitisphere reports frost damage across all wine-growing regions. Temperatures in Gaillac, in the southwest, plummeted to -4 degrees Celsius. The Jura region has been particularly hard-hit. According to Le Figaro, even Provence, typically spared from frost, has sustained significant damage this year.

Italy

According to the Italian portal WineNews, frost has severely affected regions like Trentino and South Tyrol, as well as Piedmont and even central Italy. However, the full extent of the damage across these areas remains uncertain.

This extensive frost event has once again highlighted the vulnerability of the wine industry to climatic anomalies.

The extent of damage is particularly noticeable in minimally pruned vineyards (Photo: DLR RLP)
The extent of damage is particularly noticeable in minimally pruned vineyards (Photo: DLR RLP)

Germany by region

Rheinhessen

Rheinhessen was severely impacted. Even vineyards that have traditionally been frost-free experienced temperatures as low as -4 degrees Celsius. Damage has been reported across many sub-regions, with overall losses expected to be in the low double-digit percentage range.

Moselle

Along the Moselle, particularly in the Saar and Ruwer side valleys, losses of 80-100% have been reported. The Rhineland-Nassau Farmers' and Winegrowers' Association estimates less severe damage on the Upper Moselle, but nearly all vineyards were at least partially affected.

Ahr/Nahe

Higher altitudes on the Ahr and in Nahe saw more significant damage. Initial estimates suggest 30-40% of the area could be affected.

Rheingau/Palatinate

Rheingau, with its river location, has fared better than expected. The situation in the Palatinate appears less severe overall, said the Palatinate winegrowing president Reinhold Hörner. There have been isolated cases of total damage, but this tends to be the exception.

Baden

It is still too early for the Baden Winegrowers' Association to assess the full extent of damage in Baden, but the frost has selectively hit areas like Kraichgau and Tauberfranken.

Saxony/Saale-Unstrut

Saxony's winegrowers have been particularly hard hit. The chairman of the Saxony Winegrowers' Association, Felix Hößelbarth expected losses of 90 to 100% of the harvest. Saale-Unstrut is also massively affected, with large wineries reporting up to 85% losses.

Franconia

Frost damage in Franconia varies greatly. The Franconian Winegrowers' Association expects that about 50% of the areas were damaged to different degrees.

Württemberg

According to the Württemberg Winegrowers' Association, critical temperatures were recorded by all weather stations. Nearly half of Württemberg's vineyards have been impacted, including high-altitude and terraced vineyards traditionally considered frost-resistant.

It is unclear to what extent a recovery is possible, with some vines being probably already too far developed. In already critical locations, frost rods were also partially damaged in some cases.

 

 

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