English wine producers left reeling from bud damage after widespread frosts

English wine producers left reeling from bud damage after widespread frosts

The English wine industry is fearful widespread frosts this week could have had a major impact on the 2017 harvest with some fearing over half of this year’s grape harvest could be at risk, with other producers faring far worst.

As temperatures dropped to -6C in some parts of southern England over the last week some damage was unavoidable despite the valiant efforts of wine producers and their workers to keep the frost at bay by using special fans and heaters and even fires.

The freezing weather could not have come at a worse time as late April is when the developing buds on vines first start to appear and particularly sensitive to big changes in the temperature.

Nick Wenman, owner of Albury Organic Vineyards in the North Downs told Drink Business: “It’s been a stark reminder of the difficulties faced by wine producers in the country.”

The Guardian reported Chris White, chief executive of Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, who feared it could have lost up to 75% of its crop describing the damage to buds as “catastrophic”.

But it is probably too early to say how damaging the overall picture will be and many leading producers like Chapel Down in Kent say it is best to wait until June before making a final assessment of how long term the damage will be for the 2017 vintage overall.

White told The Guardian that staff had used special fans and heaters to try and protect its 265 vineyard estate, the biggest in the UK. “We are very disappointed and it’s quite heartbreaking for the people who work in the vineyard all year round,” he said. “From what I hear the majority of English vineyards have been affected to some degree.”

The frosts, though, have not just been confined to the UK with large parts of France and Italy also suffering from severe frosts and enormous damage to vines, including across Champagne, Burgundy, the Loire, Bordeaux and in to northern parts of Italy.

Chris Foss, head of the wine department at Plumpton College in East Sussex, told the Guardian that he had heard of producers that had seen up to 90% of their buds destroyed. One grower described it as the “worst frost since 1997”.

“I’ve been in English wine for 30 years and never seen anything like it,” said Foss. “It looks like there will be a 50% drop in this year’s expected yield – if not higher.”

Although bad news for the English wine industry it will be able to go in to its reserves as it has enjoyed four record harvests and will see another one million vines planted over the next 12 months.

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing manager of English Wine Producers, said this was a “Europe-wide phenomenon” and it was too early to give an official verdict on the damage.

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