Is snow good for vines? – ask Decanter

As snow storms hit the UK and parts of Eastern and Southern Europe recover from heavy snowfall, we ask what happens to vines in the snow...

Snow in vineyards in Etna.
Snow in vineyards in Etna.

There are obvious risks and concerns for vineyards when it does start to snow.

Vine cells can’t function at below 10°C, and vines can die from getting too cold if the temperature continues to fall too far below zero.

Winter frosts are often a risk in cool climate regions, like Chablis – and effects are taken to prevent the risk of frost, including using sprinklers, heaters and wind machines in the vineyards.

In the Ningxia region in China, vines are buried deep into the soil to protect them from the very cold temperatures that can reach minus 35 degrees celsius.

Last spring, Burgundy and Champagne were hit by bad frosts, and in 2013, blizzards wrecked vines in the Abruzzo region in Italy.

However, at Gambino Vini, in Etna – where there is snow in their vineyard once a year – they argue that snow itself can have its advantages for their vines.

‘Snow on plants may have a freezing effect or a burning effect, but the snow has some benefits for the soil,’ they told Decanter.com.

‘Firstly, it meets the need for cold of the plant itself, which collects chilling units – meaning a better germination and then a good vintage.’

‘It also brings nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil, and melts into water deep into the soil.’

‘Finally, the snow prevents the soil from freezing and helps keep the temperature around zero °C.’

With the recent snow in southern England, Emma Rice, head winemaker at Hattingley Valley in Hampshire, said that as the vines are currently dormant, the snow wasn’t anything to worry about.

‘In fact, a bit of snow might kill off any unwanted disease that could be lurking around.’

‘It would need to be much colder – more like -10°C – for a sustained amount of time to be an issue.’

Translated by Leo / 孔祥鑫

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