PARIS (Reuters) – France is working with banks and insurers to arrange financial aid for winemakers whose vineyards have been hit this week by devastating spring frosts and cold weather, Farming Minister Julien Denormandie told BFM TV on Friday.

Winemakers lit candles and burned bales of straw to try and protect their vineyards from the sharp frosts, which have triggered fears of serious damage and lost production.

Temperatures plunged as low as -5°C in wine regions such as Chablis, Burgundy and Bordeaux, which could hurt shoots already well developed because of prior mild weather.

“This is an unheard of situation,” said Denormandie, adding that initial estimates showed about 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres) of vineyards may have been damaged by the frosts.

A severe cold spell in April 2017 affected vineyards so much that annual French wine output was the lowest in history. Frosts had already caused damage the previous year and again in 2019.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

FILE PHOTO: A wine grower lights heaters early in the morning, to protect vineyards from frost damage outside Chablis, France, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol