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Chile declares emergency as frost hits vines

Chile's agriculture ministry has declared a state of emergency after seeing the worst frost in decades pose a threat to vineyards and fruit farms.

Agriculture officials said this week that they are urgently seeking to assess the potential damage caused by what is believed to be the country’s worst bout of frost in around 80 years.

A broad swathe of central Chile, stretching from Bio Bio to Coquimbo and encompassing much of the country’s wine growing areas, is worst affected. However, no official damage report will be published until next week, the Chilean government said, asking farmers to remain calm.

‘We are doing an internal evaluation of the vineyards,’ a spokesperson for Chile’s largest winery, Concha y Toro, told decanter.com.

Although the company does not yet have data, she said the Casillero del Diablo wine producer is likely in a better position than some of its smaller counterparts, because ‘we are present in seven valleys and the problem only affects some areas’.

She also added that, at this stage, the ‘real damage’ is expected to be reported by fruit farms, rather than vineyards. ‘In the case of vineyards, the [affected] vines will have a second opportunity to have grapes later in October and in November’.

In Chile, vines typically begin budding and flowing over September and October. Some wineries use so-called ‘frost towers’ with fans that are designed to maintain vineyard temperature by forcing cold air to mix with warmer currents.

Chile’s wine exports are valued at US$1.8bn per year.

Written by Chris Mercer

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