English vineyards hit by ‘catastrophic’ frost, wiping out half of harvest 

Posted: May 3, 2017 by oldbrew in climate, Uncertainty, weather

Emergency measures in a vineyard [image credit: BBC News]

Unexpected weather systems can arrive from the ‘wrong’ direction at the wrong time, as this BBC report shows.

English winemakers have warned that at least half of this year’s grape harvest has been wiped out by heavy frost. The air frost that hit last week caused “catastrophic” damage to buds that had bloomed earlier than usual thanks to a warm start to the year.

About 75% of buds at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey – which produces 500,000 bottles of wine a year – were affected, its chief executive said. England has 133 wineries, which produced five million bottles in 2015.

Damage is ‘blow’

Chris White, of Denbies, said the “catastrophic” damage had been “a blow”. “It was an early start to the year with the mild weather,” he added. “Although we do get frosts at this time of year, because of the advanced stage of the buds and the sheer drop of temperature, down to -6C (21F), none of the measures we put in place made any difference.”

Those measures included frost fans to keep air moving, and a “frost blaster” which warms the air around the vines, as well as hundreds of candles that are lit and placed under the vines.

“Most vineyards in England will have been affected to some degree,” said Mr White. “Being in agriculture, we have to have broad shoulders and navigate these problems. With the weather, we’re in the lap of the gods.

“Confidence in the English wine industry has never been higher, but because it’s an agricultural business there are the risks that go with that.”

A million vines are being planted in England and Wales in 2017 – the largest planting in a single year, according to industry body English Wine Producers. Most are the champagne variety, to produce sparkling wine, with most being planted in south-east England.
. . .
Nick Wenman, founder and owner of Albury Organic Vineyard in Surrey, said it was the air frost that was particularly damaging, with three bad nights last week – the worst being the night of 26 April.

“It was like an Arctic wind which blew through the vineyard and froze everything in its path,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Full report: English vineyards hit by ‘catastrophic’ frost, wiping out half of harvest – BBC News

  1. oldmanK says:

    “With the weather, we’re in the lap of the gods.” And subject to their tantrums.

    Last year it was dry. Stunted shoots, aborted grape buds, no grapes no wine. By the end of summer most shoots died back. This year there is no grape-bearing growth. A neighbour told me we might as well dig all with a tractor and plant new, but then we’re too old to start again.

    C’est la vie

  2. rishrac says:

    I can’t imagine why they gave up growing grapes in England before. Wasn’t there some article, not to long ago, promising orange and lemon trees growing on the British isles?

  3. Curious George says:

    This is a great illustration of dangers of global warming.

  4. achuara says:

    The dangers are in global cooling, not in warming. Warming will secure you splendid vines as in France, Italy and Spain, or Argentina, Chile and California.

  5. Anoneumouse says:

  6. ivan says:

    I thought that we were told that snow and frost would be unknown in the UK by now. How did they get it so wrong, or were they talking from where the sun don’t shine?

    We even got more snow on the local mountain a couple of nights ago, and this is on the France/Spain boarder.

  7. ivan says:

    France/Spain border

    Apologies for spelling mistakes – predictive text has a mind of its own on this tablet

  8. oldbrew says:

    ivan – they were using climate models which are hopeless at prediction.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Cold snap that destroyed English vineyards may be worse than first thought, growers fear