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 Filed as : Regional SpotlightNewsGeneral

Frost Totally Bites

Jun 3, 2011
Frost Totally Bites
Several wine regions were hit by frost. What's that mean for the wine?

frost_on_vinesIn late April, California's Paso Robles region was blanketed by a spring frost in which, for two nights, temperatures dipped eight degrees below freezing. A few weeks later, several of Germany's vineyards experienced a similar event--with some calling it the worst frost in three decades. So what's this mean for you, the wine drinker?

Nothing good, usually. But it's too early to say.

Just as the vines are beginning to grow new shoots and leaves in springtime, a frost that's sustained and cold enough will wipe out all that new growth. So the vines have to start over again and, potentially, cannot grow new shoots, leaves and grapes that ripen fully by the fall--which is when the grapes are picked, crushed and fermented.

Not all frosts spell doom for wine, though. Late-season frosts simply shut down the vines for winter. The grapes just need to be picked quickly if a frost hits during the fall; the wine quality probably won't suffer.

And the spring frosts in California and Germany may not spell bad news, either. Winemakers are never truly able to assess frost damage until much later in the season. In some years, the summer is warm and sunny enough that the vines recover fully. Other times, the weather continues to be cruel--and the vines are never able to grow, carry or ripen a decent amount of grapes.

Fortunately, today's winemakers have enough skill and experience to make tasty wine from seriously tough conditions. But if this year's frosts were truly harmful, only one thing's for certain: The wines will be tougher to find since fewer bottles can be made. And you might pay a premium to get your hands on them.

Curious about another part of the winegrowing process? Ask us a question below.

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