What’s happening around the world this month

French vineyards fight frost with fire

French vineyard owners have been battling the cold weather with candles, helicopters and hot air blowers to prevent damage to their vines. It’s a concern after the 2017 crop suffered due to late frosts, but one vineyard in Burgundy has been using an interesting technique to proctect the new buds.

Philippe Drouhin, vineyard director of Joseph Drouhin (Côte d´Or) and Drouhin Vaudon (Chablis), explained on Facebook: “Few buds have yet reached a sufficiently sensitive stage. However, in some places (here our Chablis Grands Crus Bougros), protection was triggered by spraying the vines with water the night of 25 March. The picture shows the ice cocoon that protects the bud from negative temperatures.

“In anticipation of cold nights, we are positioning candles in the rows of vines. They are no longer petroleum-based, but based on 100% natural and renewable wax (stearin). Better for the environment, they allow us to improve our techniques to respond as respectfully as possible to the problems we face.”

Australian vineyards won’t harvest in 2020

The flames of the Australian bushfires might have gone out but the problems for vineyards rolls on. Some growers in the Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island and parts of New South Wales have had their crops completely destroyed, while many others have found their grapes have absorbed compounds from the bushfire smoke, which taints the wine during fermentation.

 At least a dozen Australian winemakers won’t make a vintage in 2020, and Shaw Wines posted on its Instagram: “Our recent testing of our grapes have detected levels of smoke taint that would be obvious to the consumer, so we have made the difficult decision to not harvest our 2020 grape crop. 

“Despite the loss of this vintage, we still have lots of amazing wines to share and we look forward to releasing our 2018 and 2019 reds in the near future. They are shaping up to be spectacular!”

Coronavirus hits South Africa at worst time for vineyards

Industry bodies in South Africa have been working with the Government to have agricultural workers classed as “essential” under the country’s Covid-19 lockdown, saving vineyards from being forced to waste this year’s crop.

The amendment was published on 26 March – two days after South Africa went into lockdown – adding that “harvesting and storage activities” are “essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods”. The industry had warned that if it wasn’t alllowed to continue picking during this time it would result in its collapse

However, vineyards are now being stunted by a restriction on the selling and transportation of alcohol during the lockdown, preventing the export of wine.

Italian village has its water turned into wine

Settecani – a village in the north of Italy – woke up to wine pouring from its taps instead of water one morning in March. 

The red liquid was Lambrusca wine, a sparkling red produced in the local winery, Cantina Settecani. This is connected to the public water supply, however an unusual valve malfunction during maintenance work meant that the pressure of the wine was higher than the water in the pipes, causing it to be forced into the system. 

It took an hour for staff to realise what was happening, enough time for around 1,000 litres of premium Lambrusco Grasparossa Castelvetro DOP to be piped into local homes.