LIEZELE: While the Coronavirus has captured the world’s attention and focus, winemakers also have to contend with nature.
Despite unusually warm weather over the past few days in Belgium, the night of April 14-15 brought about temperatures below zero. 450 candles were used at the winery Valke Vleug, in Liezele, Belgium, to protect the grapes from frost damage.
Frost, at this time of year and normally till mid-May is a major threat to wine growing particularly in cooler climates.
Valke Vleugel’s wine estate has 4.2 hectares and 9 grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The grapes have formed their buds. If the temperature drops below -2C, the grapes are permanently damaged.
”This is a very vulnerable period, not only for fruit growing but also for winegrowers, ”said Pieter Raeymaekers, co-founder and winemaker at Valke Vleug.
Night frost is a risk in all wine growing in cooler climates, so-called cool climate wines. The wines are more delicate, lighter and more refined than those of warmer climates, but the challenges are many.
Despite COVID-19, the work in the vineyard of Valke Vleug continued, provided that the necessary social distancing and precautions are taken.
On Tuesday, the 3-person vineyard team prepared everything to deal with frost the following night. Large candles were placed between the branches every 5 meters. The alarm was raised at 2:30 am because the frost limit was in danger of being reached. By 4am all 450 candles had been lit. The special frost candles raise the ground temperature just one and a half degrees.
In addition to many nightly hours of work, this protection also has a financial impact. “We hope this was enough to protect the buds, and it will stick with this one time this season. Let’s look ahead and hope for a beautiful spring and summer,” winemaker Pieter Raeymaekers said.
Good vintage or not. The frost control yielded magical images.
All photos by Catherine Vereecke.