At exactly this time last year, vineyard owners and managers across the country were breathing a great sigh of relief that the spring frosts were beyond us and frost protection could possibly be a fading memory … that was until it hit hard very unexpectedly and very late in the middle of the month instead!
This year, older and wiser, we have so far been fortunate and all but one of the few frosty nights we have had, occurred while the vines were still budding and far less susceptible to damage.
Bud burst and the new year’s growth kicked off in mid-April and when a frosty night on the 29th was forecast, our new water-based frost protection system was primed and ready to go. The tank had been steadily filling over the previous days from the hills above us, replicating the system the monks put in place to fill up the ponds thousand years ago. At the push of a button, the pumps thrummed into life and within minutes the air was alive with the hiss and pulse of over 2000 sprinklers, covering the vines and creating a mist of water vapour through the rows. It is a wonderfully mesmeric sight and sound on a clear, still night!
Returning to the vineyard early the following morning, it was fascinating to see how the water had frozen in a smooth cocoon of ice around the stems and over the individual leaves – keeping them at just around freezing and protected while the air temperature fell away. The science is all there (when water freezes it creates a small amount of heat, see our previous blog), but it is still a little unnerving to see icicles hanging from your vines as a warm spring sun rises over the vineyard!
I hesitate to say we are through with it for this year, but the vines are currently growing away with abandon and the forecasted heat will be a great boost to this year’s flowering and fruit set.