In the past, I personally wouldn’t care that spring has been tentative in coming. It might not have even registered in all honesty other than to complain it was a bit chilly. But now that we manage vineyards and are looking to buy grape juice this next harvest, what happens now affects our future. So, I am noticing.
We have had our expectations raised a number of times these past couple months with a warm sunny day or two, only to be dashed when a particularly cold or rainy spell follows. We are into May today and still spring has not truly reared it’s head.
This past week in fact we suffered frosts, quite severe ones, and 26th April hit hardest. Now again, who cares? I wouldn’t have in the past, but this year… we have lost probably a 1/3 or more of our potential grape crop to it.
You see, when we had those odd days of sun and warmth the dormant vines go into action. They begin to sprout. This is called ‘bud burst’ in the vineyard world. Well, it happens in much of the plant world really, but I don’t know if this phrase is used as a general term as I have only heard it amongst the wine makers.
This years bud burst came about a few weeks ago. Little bits of green showing up on our vines. And then phwaump! (That’s not a technical term.) The frost hit and the buds, which have quite a bit of moisture in them, freeze. And die.
How badly this affects the entire vine and its subsequent grapes is unclear and won’t necessarily for quite a while. We can say, we do know there will be less grape production, just how much we have lost remains at the mercy of the rest of this spring and summers weather.
Addendum: If you wish to read more about The Frost and how it has affected Burgundy, France, Wine Spectator have written a quite decent article and have a good picture (I would have loved to use) to show the smudge pots in action that are used to keep the frost at bay.