Spirits Bourgogne Grapples With Fighting Frost Without Producing Emissions Michelle Williams Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. May 24, 2022, 07:30am EDT | Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin A lingering veil of smoke from overnight frost prevention methods engulfs the commune of . .
. [+] Saint-Aubin. Michelle Williams It was late afternoon on April’s first Sunday in Bourgogne.
Cold. Overcast. Fierce winds driving the chill into my bones.
Braving the elements was necessary for an homage visit to sacred land—Romanée Conti climat, in the commune of Vosne-Romanée. Surprisingly, the vineyards were bustling with activity. Frost threat had dedicated workers installing a host of prevention techniques throughout the region.
The following day smoke and soot filled the air from Saint-Aubin to Morey-St. Denis. Small fires dotted the landscape.
Large candles on sentry duty lined vineyard rows as far as the eye could see. In an effort to avoid catastrophic losses, like in 2021, Bourgogne wineries employ a wide range of active frost prevention techniques. From torches and heated wooden cauldrons, paraffin candles, burning vine clippings, portable wind machines, and even helicopters, each of these choices produce carbon emissions.
In seeking to first do no harm: Why are carbon dioxide producing active methods such widely utilized options for fighting frost in Bourgogne vineyards, and elsewhere? Paraffin candles can give off enough heat to create air movement to prevent frost pockets. Michelle Williams Double-Edged Sword Dr. Greg Jones, CEO Abacela Vineyards and Winery, climatologist, and terroirist recognizes solutions combating frost that add CO 2 to the atmosphere is a problem.
“Virtually anything we do to solve one issue produces impacts on another aspect of the system,” he shares. “Since we use fuels for virtually everything, we turn to fuels to mitigate frost damages, which are clearly creating more carbon loading on the atmosphere. ” MORE FOR YOU A Napa Valley Wine Homage To Ancient Persia By An Immigrant From Iran The Top Whiskeys According To The New York World Wine & Spirits Competition Karuizawa Ruby Geishas Japanese Whisky Bottlings To Be Sold Via A Lottery Unaware of any active methods in development that avoid carbon emissions, Jones likes sprinklers as a means of frost protection.
“The most effective way is to use water to freeze over the buds, releasing latent heat to protect them. But if the shoots are too long, this does not work as well as it breaks off shoots. ” However, water resources, cost, and regional regulations come into play.
A Brief Frost Primer There are two types of frost: Advection and Radiation. Also known as wind frost, advection results from a horizontal transport of cold air masses below 32°F. Ice, usually in crystalline form, is widely deposited.
Radiation frost occurs with clear skies and calm wind. An inversion develops where temperatures near the ground drop below freezing. In this case, the warm air aloft can be pulled down to the surface by means of fans, helicopters, etc.
Spring frosts have been a reality for wine regions for years. However, warmer winters are resulting in vines “ waking up ” earlier. The delicate new buds are easily destroyed by frost.
Additionally, frost negatively impacts yield and fruit quality. A severe frost event can wipe out an entire vintage. Currently, the use of frost blankets in Bourgogne violates labeling regulations.
Michelle Williams What’s happening in Bourgogne In keeping with France’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, The Bourgogne Wine Board is constructing a plan, scheduled for release by the end of the year, to cut emissions in half by 2030, on their way to full neutrality. “The idea is to create a catalogue of solutions per area to help domaines, caves, and négoces find their own solutions,” shares Cécile Mathiaud, media relations for The Bourgogne Wine Board. While the region permits the use of sprinklers in combating frost, restrictions limit this practice to vineyards with access to groundwater—some parts of Chablis.
For the remainder of the region sprinkles are not permissable. Electric warming wires, seen in some Grand Cru Chablis vineyards, are also being tested in about 10-15% of Bourgogne vineyards to determine the environmental and actualized cost. “We are trying to figure what the consequences would be for the rest of the population.
For this reason, it doesn’t seem possible to use [warming wires] everywhere,” shares Mathiaud. “And, it is so expensive. It would be too much for already very expensive wines such as Grand Crus.
” Paraffin candles are undergoing an effectiveness study; however, the region’s carbon neutral goals call to question the long-term viability of their use. Additionally, Bourgogne’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status challenges any attempt to alter the area. Proposed changes, including planting trees, initiates layers of bureaucratic red tape that can take years to maneuver.
The blanket of smoke from burning straw, hay, or vine clippings at the edge of a vineyard creates . . .
[+] aids in preventing soil heat loss. Michelle Williams Minding One’s Footprint At Domaine Dujac in Morey-St. Denis, enologist Diana Snowden Seysses, expresses relief the winery only experienced one frost event this year and escaped without any damage.
Rather than burning candles or hay bales, Domaine Dujac’s foreman explored seven different pruning trials, and one vegetable oil treatment. According to Snowden Seysses, none of the trials were considered successful, other than “the age-old technique of pruning as late as possible. ” Snowden Seysses has spent the past four years studying the wine industry from the perspective of sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions.
She is keenly aware of the carbon emissions produced by different aspects for winemaking, from CO 2 emitted by yeast during fermentation to paraffin candles burning throughout Bourgogne appellations as frost protection. “Any technique which causes CO 2 accumulation and pollution in the atmosphere is not a sustainable solution or respectful of the beautiful concept of terroir. Water, like cloth, is illegal and would cause us to lose the right to use the appellation on the label,” she explains.
Montrachet vineyard employing a wind machine to fight radiation frost. Michelle Williams Redefining Terroir Historically, the French notion of terroir—the somewhereness of a wine—is built on soil, topography, and climate reflecting a wine’s typicity of a site, vineyard, and region. No place is this understanding more evident and revered than Bourgogne.
In an article last year, Snowden Seysses floats an expansion of terroir to include impacts of climate change through people. She posits climate change and globalization expand the notion of terroir beyond site, vineyard, or region, to account for the entirety of the Earth’s atmosphere. “It is our responsibility to expand our awareness of our own radius of impact.
” Therefore, for the foreseeable future, Bourgogne’s spring frost anxiety, like many other regions, will continue. And regional wineries will continue to fight frost with carbon producing methods that fill the air with smoke and soot while less impactful solutions are studied. Or, perhaps labeling regulations will expand to consider that doing what is best for protecting the vines and the environment encompasses terroir.
In an email, Snowden Seysses shares, “I am certain that all of those Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (French agricultural regulations agency) restrictions—irrigation, vine spacing, hail, and frost protection techniques, grape variety (!)…, will be reconsidered in the next 30 years as the climate changes more quickly and threatens our livelihood. ” In the spirit of first do no harm, 30 years is too long. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn .
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