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Ferocious frost hits Chilean vineyards

Last week nighttime temperatures plummeted below zero for three days in a row with a cold front which caused significant frost damage to some vineyards in Chile’s Central Valley.

Some vineyards are reporting losses of up to 100% of their shoots following a severe frost last week, which peaked on Wednesday 2nd October with temperatures recorded as low as 2.5 degrees Celsius below zero.

Damage in Colchagua

Although temperatures were cold across Chile, the region most affected is emerging to be Colchagua which was already in a developed stage of budbreak.

‘We had 31 hectares affected from last week’s frost,’ said the Head Viticulturist of Colchagua-based producer Casa Silva, René Vásquez. ‘In our 25 hectare estate near Angostura we were worst affected, because bud break was almost 10 days before the frost, and we lost 100% of our shoots. It was a really big frost… but all we can do is wait and see what we get in the second bud-break.’

There are no official estimates of the damage yet, but damage wasn’t only limited to grape vines.

‘Colchagua is a big fruit-producing zone too and we had three really cold days which was really hard for all the fruit industry here,’ explains José Miguel Sotomayor of Wildmakers who also works as a consultant for growers in the region. ‘The lower zones were worst affected and earlier budding varieties – which has been significant for Merlot, Syrah and Malbec in Colchagua.’

Coastal frost damage

Frost damage last week also extended to the coastal zones, especially in Casablanca and San Antonio.

‘We have frost every year here in Lo Abarca, but we had already lost buds three weeks ago to a frost, and now we’ve just lost the second buds to this frost last week,’ Felipe Marin from Casa Marin told Decanter.com, about his family estate, just 4km from the coast.

‘At the moment we’ve lost about 65% but it’s still early to come to conclusions, because the weather forecast says we still have more frost to come.’

The usual sprinkler systems for frost protection have also been compromised as Chile is in its tenth year of extreme drought.

See also: How do winemakers prevent frost?

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