Warm March causes frost damage in April

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In the middle of March, warm temperatures hit France, meaning the growing season started early in the vineyards. In some places, the budding began as early as the third week of March (e.g. cabernet franc in Chinon). In many areas, budding started two weeks earlier than in 2023.

But then came the setback.

In the second and third week of April, the temperature dropped to winter cold, with occasional sub-zero temperatures at night. The frost has killed young buds in some vineyards all over France, from the Loire down to Provence. The last week of April, I was in Champagne and the producers there had been crossing their fingers for the last few weeks. So far, they have been lucky, and Alexandre Penet at Champagne Penet-Chardonnet in Verzy now believes that the danger is over for Champagne. The temperature has started to rise again.

Some of the German vineyards have also suffered frost damage recently. Warm weather in March has caused many vineyards to be up to four weeks ahead of normal in their development.

Winegrowers employ a variety of strategies to safeguard against frost damage. Some use tall towers with large propellers to circulate the air in the vineyard. Others place heat sources, such as big candles, between the rows to raise the temperature. Sprinklers can also be installed to spray water, forming a protective layer of ice around the buds. Additionally, later winter pruning can be beneficial as it delays budding, potentially avoiding frost damage.

An anti-frost wind machine, propeller tower, of an old style, in a vineyard in Bordeaux
An anti-frost wind machine, propeller tower, of an old style, in a vineyard in Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography
Frost damaged vines in springtime
Frost-damaged vines in springtime, copyright BKWine Photography
Burning hay bale for frost protection in Burgundy
Burning hay bale for frost protection in Burgundy, copyright BKWine Photography

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