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frost – a close call in the côtes


April 2016…

To be honest, I hardly remember frost in Burgundy – I began tasting here in 1997 (the 1996s), and I’ve rarely seen much – but there was a sense of deja-vu to this week’s weather forecast.

Typically, back home in Switzerland, I brought out my non-hardy plants last week after literally weeks without rain and often-times temperatures above 20°C – this week whilst in Beaune, there are weather warnings back in Bern, already some snow and -6 to -8°C forecast for Thursday and Friday night – there go the plants! It could also be the second year running that the second half of April sees colder temperatures than much of the deep winter. Note that most of the Côte d’Or is close to two weeks ahead of the growth schedule of an ‘average’ year – so potentially there is as much growth to lose today, as there was at the end of April last year.

In Chablis yesterday evening there was plenty of damage as temperatures dipped below -3°C. Here in the Côtes it rarely got below -1°C and there was virtually no damage reported – last night at-least – it’s not yet over. The water sprays and ‘candles’* were out in action in Chablis – but many areas are unprotected and saw loses – it was worse in the Châtillonais – between Chablis and Champagne – here were much bigger losses. It would have been worse-still had there been any rain to speak of in the last week or two – any damp exacerbates the effect of the frost such that plants might survive -3°C in very dry conditions – but succumb to -1°C when wet/damp – chardonnay at least, pinot is less hardy…

I asked one producer from the Côte de Nuits ‘So if you already knew that on Friday evening the vineyards would touch -5°C, could you actually go out and protect your vines with, for instance, candles?’ Their answer:

The problem is that we have 15 hectares, so you can multiply that by at least 3 or 4 to come to the actual number of parcels – it’s actually physically impossible for us to be in all those parcels to light candles as required – not even taking into account the cost of doing so. Ideally if you’ve great relations with some fellow producers, you could let them be responsible for one vineyard while you take responsibility for another – and so on. Frankly, such cohesion and organisation would be a remarkable thing!

Fingers crossed for the next days…

*‘Candles’ really doesn’t give you a true idea – rows of 5 kilo cans that have more to do with petrochemicals, with dark smoke – not a bit like the domestic candles in your house – and environmentally friendly they are not…

One response to “frost – a close call in the côtes”

  1. Mike Golub

    Why don’t the use Wind Machines and or Water Spraying as we do in the USA? Do a cost analysis!
    How much will they lose if they have lost crop?

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