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Extreme freeze damages Ontario vineyards

Freezing temperatures across Ontario have damaged vines in the Canadian province's vineyards, with some producers reporting bud loss of around 90%.

Producers in two of Ontario’s three wine appellations are already facing a smaller 2014 harvest after reporting severe bud loss in the past few weeks.

‘Our winery has 95 to 98% bud loss, so we won’t be getting grapes this year,’ says Tom O’Brien, owner of Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards in Lake Erie North Shore.

That appellation shows the most damage, with an average bud loss of 86 to 90% across all varieties, according to Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

Meanwhile, average bud loss in Niagara Peninsula ranges from 34% for Pinot Noir to 66% for Syrah, according to CCOVI with Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc faring better than Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

The full extent of the damage from this recent cold weather is not yet known, and pruning strategies can be adjusted to mitigate some bud losses.

In Ontario’s Prince Edward County appellation, most vines are buried until spring to protect them from harsh winters.

Sally Peck, owner of Sugarbush Vineyards there, said, ‘More than 90 per cent bud loss would occur this year if vines weren’t buried.’

Ron Giesbrecht, professor for wine and viticulture at Niagara College, told Decanter.com, ‘Bud counts aren’t the only measure of damage. Trunk damage from severe cold can also reduce crops in the current and subsequent vintage. So it’s too soon to know the extent of the damage.’

It is hoped that a bumper crop in 2013 can offset expected shortfalls in 2014.

Written by Carolyn Evans Hammond

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