The Low-Tech Way Winemakers Are Trying To Save Their Crops

If you drink wine, then you're probably familiar with Burgundy, which comprises both red and white wine grapes grown in the Burgundy region of France (via VinePair). Famed for its terroir, or a distinctive flavor lent to wine as a result of the soil and other factors representative of where the grapes were grown, Burgundy produces around 200 million bottles of wine per year (via O.M. Nielsen), primarily of dry red and full-bodied white wine.

The French region of Burgundy has been treasured by winemakers and drinkers alike since way back around 50 B.C., when, according to VisitFrenchWine, the Celtic people were already producing wine. And although Burgundy's winemaking traditions are still going strong, they have not remained unaffected by climate change. According to Wine Enthusiast, over the past few decades, vineyards have fallen victim to newer weather variables that can mean unpredictable growing seasons, with increased risks of hot and dry conditions around the harvest and, earlier in the season, frost that can harm or kill the delicate budding vines.

That latter factor is affecting winemakers in Burgundy today, who are facing the possible loss of vines that budded during a winter warm spell and have now been enveloped in a late frost.

Lighting candles to try to gently warm the vines

According to the Associated Press (AP), multiple European countries have been affected by a late frost following a winter warm spell, coating delicate fruit trees and vines in ice that is threatening the livelihood of growers. In Burgundy, winemakers have found their budding vines, which are usually harvested in September, covered in frost that can kill off buds and gravely affect the growing season and resulting harvest. And in order to try to gently melt the frost off their crops, some winemakers in the region are turning to a low-tech strategy, according to AP: lighting hundreds of candles per hectare underneath the vines in an attempt to save them.

Striking photos published by the AP show flickering candles placed below frozen grape vines, a method adopted by Chablis winemaker Daniel Defaix, who told the AP that it's "a very, very serious frost." Other winemakers in the region attempted to save their vines in other ways, spraying them with a light coating of water in order to protect and stabilize the vines, or rolling out heaters in the middle of the night to keep the crops warm.

This is the second year in a row that French vineyards have been seriously affected by frost: last year, the AP reports, a late frost cost the industry $2.4 billion in losses in what French government officials called "probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century."