Candles protect French vineyards as arctic snap sweeps across Europe
Chablis, France, Apr 4 (EPA-EFE).- A cold snap that has swept across Europe and caused temperatures in northern France to tumble below freezing has forced French winegrowers to spring into action and protect blooming buds.
In the early hours of Monday morning, growers placed hundreds of anti-frost candles across vineyards in Burgundy’s Chablis district in northeastern France to shield the fragile buds from the frigid temperatures.
The cold snap follows an unusually warm period last week.
Chablis wine gets its distinctive acidic and dry taste thanks to the cool temperatures its vineyards thrive in, but a cold weather front is threatening crops a year after producers grappled with a spring frost that resulted in the smallest harvest for French vineyards in half a century, according to France’s Agriculture Ministry.
Louis Moreau, vice-president of the BIVB Chablis Commission, says that looking for alternative solutions to protect vineyards from frost has been a concern for decades.
“It was clear back in the 60s the Chablis growers were not living from the vineyard (…) and every other year the vineyard would be damaged by frost,” the expert says in a video on the official Twitter feed for Chablis wines.
“We are using candles today, just pots that we light. (…) Each of them has around 200 or 300 pots in each vineyard. That’s the most common solution today.”
But this process, which is very expensive and inefficient, is not a long-term solution to a problem that will only become more frequent as the effects of the climate crisis are felt in Burgundy’s vineyards.
An alternative is to cover the buds in warm water in the evening and overnight, with the droplets acting as a sort of protective “ice glove”, Moreau says.
The expert adds that trials with electricity are underway, which involve installing wiring along the bottom of the trellising system.
New projects using heated windmill-like devices invert the cool air at the bottom of the vines and push it up, while forcing the warmer air down towards the roots.
Finally, another system covers crops with a large tarpaulin to protect vineyards from the frosty air, which Moreau says could become widespread within the next three years. EPA-EFE