Vail Wine Ink column: A chilly reminder — France vineyards currently battling frost

Two weeks ago, this column detailed the extensive efforts that winegrowers in the Burgundy region of France were undertaking to protect their vineyards from hail.

Unfortunately, before their investment in a “high-tech hail shield” could produce success, the growers were attacked by a different weather malady as chilling, late April frosts devastated the vines, leaving not only Burgundy, but also many of France’s most famed wine regions struggling. It was said that this weather event could be the worst frost to hit French wine regions, including Champagne and Bordeaux, since the disastrous 1991 vintage.

“You could sense that everyone was on edge,” said Johnny Ivansco, the director of wine for Carbondale, Colorado’s Sopris Liquor and Wine, a major wine retailer in Colorado, who was traveling through France at the time of the big chill. “There was this sense of both panic and camaraderie as they (the vignerons) raced to try and protect their vines.”

Ivansco was in Burgundy the last week in April on a wine education trip with Zach Locke, a wine importer whose company, Old World Wine Co., does business with many of the most esteemed names in French wine. They had begun their trip in the sunshine of Provence and drove through the Southern Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape before continuing on to Burgundy. It was there that both were witness to the effects of the vagaries of outrageous weather.


“That Friday, we woke up to zero degree centigrade temperatures,” Ivansco said. “If you have ever driven through the Cote de Beaune, you know the roads are so narrow, just one lane really. Everywhere you could see these little 110 series Land Rovers towing these little white wagons with straw bales.”

The growers would open the bales, spread the straw on the ground and light fires, hoping to both give heat to the vines and leave a layer of smoke over the top of the vineyards to give some protection from the sun.

“They told us that the danger wasn’t just the…

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