How does snow affect the vines?

By Ridgeview Vineyard Manager Matt Strugnell

In this cold and snowy week, how are our vines coping with ‘The Beast from the East?’ Thankfully our vines are fully dormant (asleep) at the moment. The coldest spot at Ridgeview was -10.0 C early on Wednesday morning, and probably not enough to cause any damage. Another drop of 5 degrees, and we might start to see a few buds being damaged, but it would take a further 10 degree drop to start seeing significant problems. There is a general rule that if the annual minimum temperature falls below -20 degrees C, more than once a decade, then problems occur. Some cultivars are more cold hardy than others; Chardonnay is slightly more winter hardy than Pinot noir for example. But overall, in Southern England, periods of extreme cold are fairly uncommon.

Fortunately most of our pruning is completed which could be cold and tricky in this weather. I don’t expect these cold temperatures to have an effect on budburst, or indeed the timing of the coming season. Grapevines, like most fruit crops do require a certain amount of chilling over winter, to kick start the next growing season. So budburst is really more about how the seasonal temperature during second half of March and early April is. Of course, as the buds start to swell, and the new shoots for this year’s crop emerge, this is the time we have to start being vigilant for Spring frosts, which, whilst not causing long term injury to the vines, can impact this year’s crop. There will be more about what we do to protect our vines in spring  in the next update.