Chileans fear frost in cold spring

  • Monday 17 September 2007

Frost damage is a major worry in Chile as the coldest winter in more than half a century draws to a close.

Snow fell this winter on many of the country's wine valleys for the first time in decades. Temperatures continue to hover close to zero Celsius at night causing headaches for winemakers.

Varieties that bud the earliest – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Malbec – are two to three weeks late because of colder temperatures, Edmundo Bordeu, an enology professor at Catholic University in Santiago, told decanter.com.

Winemakers in Casablanca Valley, Maule Valley, close to the Andes mountains and in the nation's south, are especially at risk of frost damage, he said.

In 1992, Bordeu said Chile had severe frost damage in the crucial month of October, driving prices up.

‘Everyone seems to think that we will probably have spring frost,’ Bordeu said. ‘The quality of wines should not be affected, but the quantity could suffer drastically.’

Andres Turner, general manager of Montes Wines, which has vineyards in both Chile and Argentina, says Argentina has had a similar winter. ‘Unlike Chile, Argentina has some frost in most years. This year it’s been colder than usual at night. We are concerned about October.’

Not everyone is pessimistic. Jorge Morande, grower and consultant to several vineyards in Casablanca, said, ‘We have been getting close to frost, but it does not mean it will happen. If it does, we are prepared to deal with it. Normally, the frost that happens in the spring is less intense anyway.’

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