Warm Spring weather in Champagne following a very mild winter during which the temperature rarely dropped below freezing has resulted in an early start to growth in the vineyard and the danger of frost damage. “This winter in Ay we had only one morning at minus 3degC and by midday it was 12degC, we’ve had almost no frost,” says Philippe Brun of Champagne Roger Brun. “Not enough to damage the grass or the bad herbs, the soil stayed green all winter. Since the start of March we’ve had no rain and the soil is very hard partly because of no frost to break it up, making it very hard to work.
At the moment it is like 2003 and we are ten to 12 days in advance of ‘normal’, compared to the average over the past 25 years. So now the vineyard will be very sensitive to frost. In 2003 we had minus 10degC on 11th April, which is why we had almost no crop. in 2012 we were frozen twice in the middle of April and on 2nd May when there was widespread damage.
In 2003, after we picked three times, I had only 4 tonnes per hectare, the first harvest was only 2 tonnes (Regrapage). We picked over two months, now we have to pick over three weeks in total; it is not permitted to go back and pick second generation grapes.
So at the moment we have crossed fingers with a danger of frost until mid May and in fact temperatures dropped to minus 1degC in Reims last night, though that is not expected to cause any damage as Reims is less advanced than the vineyard in Ay.”
This year Brun is to experiment with spraying Oligo Saccharin (apple extract) in his vineyards if there is a risk of being frozen. This works by encouraging a concentration of glucose in the leaves and that reduces their freezing point by a few degrees and gives some protection down to about minus 4 or 5 degC. “If I do it this may help me have 40-50% less damage. I think it’s the effect of global warming; we’ve had virtually no winter and this makes the vineyard much more susceptible to frost in the Spring.”