FROST has had a devastating impact on some Hampshire vineyards.
An unseasonable frost was experienced across the country two weeks ago, with temperatures down to minus four and half degrees.
Augusta Raimes, of Raimes English Sparkling in Cheriton, said: “It is such a shame because our buds had got off to a particularly early start as March was so warm and sunny; they were looking magnificent.
“The vines will develop secondary buds, they may not be so fruitful but they still have the potential to produce superb grapes. We will be looking for a good autumn to make up for the lost growing season in the spring.”
Stephen Flook, co-owner of Court Lane Vineyard in Ropley, said: “We have never known it so bad. It means we have lost the entire crop. There is not going to be any improvement until we start producing buds on the vine next year. I’ve worked in the industry since 1974 and I’ve seen nothing like it.”
Emma Rice, head winemaker at Hattingley Valley near Alresford, said: “Hattingley Valley faced three nights of frost and suffered severe air frosts on the third night. Despite the best efforts and dedication from our vineyard team we experienced significant losses of primary fruit.
“There will no doubt be a reduced crop in 2017 but for the buds that are recovering well we hope to see some top quality fruit as the vines won’t have as much competition when seeking nutrition from the ground. We are also hopeful that the vineyard will have a healthy second budburst.
“We have good reserves in our cellar from the past three years so we in a more fortunate position than newer vineyards who won’t have had the opportunity to build up any reserve wine yet.
“Of course we are disappointing by the results from this cold snap but on a positive note we will use this experience as an opportunity to focus on nutrition in the vineyard to give the vines strength in preparation for next year.”
There are several ways vineyards can fight frost such as lighting candles, using huge fans to move the air around, or spraying water.
The Leckford Estate vineyard near Stockbridge, which produces 30,000 bottles of sparkling wine for Waitrose each year, lit hundreds of candles in their efforts to stop them from succumbing to the frost.
The 750 candles were used to raise the temperature at the level of the vine canopy because a drop to -1 degree celsius after bud-break in the springtime could lead to serious injury to the young shoots.
Hampshire’s sparkling wine industry has enjoyed increasing success on the international scene.
Vineyards of Hampshire, a collaborative marketing initiative of eight vineyards have won over 50 gold and silver medals between them and often beat their French counterparts in tastings.