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English vineyards report ‘catastrophic’ damage after severe April frost

May 3, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Quaseoveritas


From the Guardian:




English winemakers are reporting “catastrophic” crop damage after the worst frost in a generation wiped out at least half of this year’s grape harvest.

Chris White, the chief executive of Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, said up to 75% of its crop was damaged by last week’s sub-zero temperatures: “The temperature dropped to -6C and at that level it causes catastrophic damage to buds,” he said.

White said staff had worked in vain using special fans and heaters to protect the vineyard, which at 265 acres in the UK’s biggest, after an Arctic blast swept across the UK. “We are very disappointed and it’s quite heartbreaking for the people who work in the vineyard all year round,” he said. “From what I hear the majority of English vineyards have been affected to some degree.”

Winemakers light fires to fight frost – in pictures


Some of France’s most famous winemaking regions, including Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy, were also affected by last week’s severe frosts. The bad weather is expected to mean another poor year for French producers after last year’s cocktail of hail, frost and mildew resulted in one of the smallest harvests in 30 years.

The blow dealt to this year’s wine harvest is a setback for an industry enjoying huge success, with Denbies, Nyetimber and Ridgeview among the South Downs vintners winning international acclaim for sparkling – and increasingly still – wine produced in an area that has a geology and microclimate similar to Champagne. It also comes after four record years, a strong run that has encouraged the industry to plan a record 1m vines over the next 12 months.


It is an unfortunate reminder of just how volatile English weather is.

It was only last week that the discredited RHS suggested that we would soon be growing all sorts of exotic varieties.


Last week, the CET recorded two nights below zero, minus 0.7C and minus 0.2c on the 25th and 27th. (Interestingly, I believe that Benson in Oxfordshire went as low as minus 6C, a figure also noted by the Guardian in Surrey. This must cast doubt over the reliability of the CET series).

A look at CET night time temperatures for the last week in April on records back to 1878 shows that this is a perfectly normal occurrence. What is apparent is that there was a run of years in the 1990s and 2000s, when there were no sub zero days.





Looking at April as a whole, there is also a lot of year to year variability in the number of frost days in the south of England.




We hear a lot about global warming and longer growing seasons, but it is weather which trumps everything.

  1. May 3, 2017 4:30 pm

    I suffered from two nights of catastrophic frosts in Devon: I has a huge number of plants damaged, including many trees, but hopefully they will all recover. But you know it is going to happen every few years and have to accept that it is just weather.

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    May 3, 2017 4:51 pm

    A factor here is that such truly damaging frosts can be very localised – hence why the CET record may not be wrong. I live between Denbies and the “Chipstead Frost Hollow” (a chalk hills dry valley that very regularly cops low temperatures in the winter) in east Surrey. The temperature may well have reached -6C in those two places (which are less than 10 miles apart) but, where I live between the two, the temperature only dropped a degree or two below zero for 2 nights and, as a result, we had no frost damage to buds. We’ve had much worse before (and in the last generation) and even had a 10cm snowfall in mid-April, perhaps in 1998.
    So, “it’s the British weather, stupid!” and it ain’t trending in any direction.

  3. Bloke down the pub permalink
    May 3, 2017 5:07 pm

    I expect that even when the Romans were growing vines in the North of England, they would have suffered from occasional frosts.

  4. May 3, 2017 5:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Man-made CO2-induced catastrophic global warming update…

  5. May 3, 2017 5:47 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    Clearly loving the Mediterranean climate

  6. quaesoveritas permalink
    May 3, 2017 6:27 pm

    Here is the report on the BBC website:
    It is interesting that in their potted history of wine making in England they say:
    ◾Wine-making was brought to Britain by the Romans about 2,000 years ago.
    ◾By the time of Henry VIII there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales.
    ◾Vineyards reduced over next few centuries, partly due to climate changes.
    I suppose they will say the “climate change” element in this year’s event was this:#

    “The air frost that hit last week caused “catastrophic” damage to buds that had bloomed earlier than usual thanks to a warm start to the year. “

  7. Ben Vorlich permalink
    May 3, 2017 7:08 pm

    I can confirm frost damage to vines, big item on BFMTV morning news a couple of days ago. Here in Limousin the fruit trees took a hit, apples had just finished blooming a couple weeks before so much of the fruit was damaged beyond recovery. This is the second time in 10 years, but it is to be expected from time to time. There was also a lot of late snow in the Alps and Pyrenees. I’m hoping some lasts untl the TdF in July should make for some spectacular shots if it does.

  8. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 3, 2017 9:04 pm

    I am temporarily on a winery near Bendigo (Victoria) where the vineyards have large fans installed and are run when frost is expected. Most visitors mistake them for small wind turbines despite the 4 blades. Balgownie Estate is a premium producer and can afford such expenditure, necessary as Bendigo is a lot colder in winter than most TV viewers in the UK would think.
    One early pioneer of Australian wine expressed the thought (c. 1835) that Australia could become England’s vineyard. You should have listened to him, instead of the prophets of doom claiming that England would soon be warm enough to rival the south of France. The heat has been turned off because of Brexit.

    P.S. I was in England last year and tried several wines at Hereford. Quite pleasant but if it gets any colder in the UK see if Australia would start a “Bottles for Britain” campaign.

    • AndyG55 permalink
      May 3, 2017 9:45 pm

      2017 looks like being an excellent vintage down here.

      High quality and lots of it. 🙂

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        May 4, 2017 10:03 am

        I’ve tried the Balgownie Estate Shiraz ( 2013 another good year) and it is dangerous stuff. Evaporates quickly. And too soon, it could easily go another 5 years before hitting its peak

  9. May 3, 2017 9:16 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections and commented:
    In California in the 60s and 70s, smudge pots, orchard wind machines, frost fans, and sprinklers were common sights and topics of discussion. Lately, not so much. Perhaps we’ve grown complacent and ignored the threats of frost damage to our food supply.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      May 5, 2017 4:49 pm

      I remember reading, in the 1960’s, about smudge pots being lit to protect Florida’s orange crops from frost. Nowt new, is it?

  10. Peter, Norfolk permalink
    May 3, 2017 10:17 pm

    I’m a big supporter (and contributor) to your work, but are we in danger of simply aping the tactics of the warmist lobby here by commenting about typical weather events, which, like every bit of perceived ‘extreme’, but in truth normal, weather, gets the ‘no climate change deniers so energised? Maybe we should be demonstrating how ridiculous they are by saying this ‘extreme’ cold snap was not evidence of global cooling.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 4, 2017 12:40 pm

      No. The claim from the warmists is that it is getting warmer all the time so there should not be any frosts in April because it is getting too warm for that. This is highlighting a dose of reality from mother nature.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      May 4, 2017 1:57 pm

      What is a “no climate change denier”?
      Someone who denies there is no climate change?
      Is that another way of saying, an advocate of climate change?
      If so, there are too many double negatives for my head the get around!

  11. 4TimesAYear permalink
    May 4, 2017 7:44 am

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.

  12. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 4, 2017 9:59 am

    Brings back the thought that Guy Callendar who really started the CO2 causes warming idea ( although he did change his mind just before his death) spent WW2 supervising the burning of thousands of tonnes of fuel oil to keep RAF bomber bases operating in winter.
    Kept the freezing fog away; just the expertise that England needs now.

  13. Dave Ward permalink
    May 4, 2017 10:45 am

    The first picture appears to show lots of black smoke rising above the Sussex vineyard. Is this another “doctored” image, (like the usual ones we see of power station cooling towers), or in this case real “Carbon” pollution from the incomplete combustion (yellow flames) of thousands of candles?

    • Ed Bo permalink
      May 4, 2017 2:29 pm

      The point of fires for frost prevention is much more to produce smoke than it is the direct heat production. On these cold clear nights, the surface radiates very effectively to the high night sky. The smoke blocks those radiative energy losses, helping to keep the temperature up.

  14. Gerry, England permalink
    May 4, 2017 12:42 pm

    In the bottom corner of Surrey we had a couple of frosty nights which have done for the magnolia. The flowers were just coming to an end and the green leaves coming out but the leaves are now all shriveled. Wandering some woodlands at the weekend I saw some frost damage on oak trees where the new leaves had turned brown at the tips.

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