Everyone has been looking at the thermometer for the past couple of nights in northern Italy: after a beautiful March, with above-average temperatures that brought forward the shoots in many areas, the frost of these nights has brought temperatures back below zero. In my area, for example, between Valle Camonica, Lake Iseo, Franciacorta and as far as the shores of Lake Garda, the temperature reached -2 for three consecutive nights, with atrocious damage to the vineyards. This damage was on top of another damage: it was a period of great drought, which as much as it made me, who hate rain, enjoy it, it did not do as much good to the crops! The plants were certainly already coming out of a period of water stress, which, while in some cases can also be a good thing, did not help them cope with yet another environmental emergency.

I heard more than one producer at Vinitaly tell me <>, seized by a healthy rush of optimism and the adrenalin rush of a successful fair. It's going to be a difficult year, however, especially for small producers who are not equipped with annual insurance... and then even the annual ones I wonder how much they cover in such cases. In fact, since I don't know, if someone reading this knows and leaves me a comment it would be much appreciated!

Winegrowers lit fires in the middle of the vineyards (the opening photo is from the Friulian winery Venica & Venica) in a desperate attempt to save them from this night's frost. In Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli and Lombardy, the regions immediately called for the urgent declaration of a state of natural disaster so that they could access funding and help producers. This horrible frost, which in fact affected the whole of Italy, did the worst damage in the last 10 years precisely in these regions. The estimated damage is between 50 % and 80 % depending on the areas and exposure of the vineyards. The vineyards most affected were those on the valley floor and those in the flat areas, where the damage seems to be even higher. Listening directly to the winegrowers, however, I realised that the proportions of the frost are even greater and spread like wildfire to southern Italy.

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Photos & Thoughts directly from Italian winemakers

[CONTINUOUSLY UPDATED].

[Last updated: 1 May 2017, 12:32 pm].

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From Friuli Venezia Giulia...

Cristian Specogna - Winegrowers Specogna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia"Even here, the vineyards on the valley floor were not saved from last night's low temperatures...  One hour of sub-zero temperatures was enough to compromise the entire vintage for these vines."

frost in the vineyards 2017

Cristian Specogna - Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Massimo di Lenardo - Ontagnano, Friuli-Venezia GiuliaOf course, in the face of so many other disasters of nature, this one doesn't seem so important, but for those of us who make vines and grapes our work and on which we base our entire lives... to lose in a single hour years of work and the fruits of months and months of passion and toil... well... it's just speechless.

Di Lenardo Vineyards- Ontagnano, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Roberto Ottogalli - Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia: " Production is lost with percentages ranging from 30% to 80% in particular Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay 😭

frost in vineyards

Roberto Ottogalli - Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Marco Cecchini - Udine, Friuli-Venezia GiuliaLoving agriculture means understanding its disruptive force, for better or for worse. The farmer becomes a fatalist almost necessarily and faces difficulties, of which a frost is one of the manifestations, with a good heart trying to get by. It would be important for those on the other side, those who drink the wine or eat the fruit, to know and understand that the impact of these calamities makes agricultural products precious and different from any other consumer good of industrial origin'.

frost in vineyards

Marco Cecchini - Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

From Veneto...

Federico Marconi - Soave, VenetoMany times I have had the opportunity to discuss with people who consider us farmers to be a 'bad category', super-privileged compared to other sectors, I have read comments by people who say that we always cry, we work when we want to and when it rains we are always in the bar.... I would like to see them, however, get up one morning and see the work and sacrifices they have made up to now go up in smoke overnight... I would like to see their faces when they learn that they have to work for a living.r this year the income from that land will not be there... and the expenses made so far and those of the future will have to be paid from the receipts of previous years, such as the instalments of the loans for equipment and tractors... yes, the tractors that you hate so much because they go slowly and get in the way, do you think they will be given to us as gifts? These are the photos of my vineyards today... but this morning the situation was not good for other, non-grower colleagues of mine either: hectares and hectares of maize, potatoes, onions and other crops burnt by the frost... And a lot of people who will now have to roll up their sleeves again and move on... hoping that the weather will not present us with new (nasty) surprises..."

frost in vineyards

Federico Marconi - Soave, Veneto

Maurizio Favrel, Malibran - Susegana, VenetoIt was the worst three nights of my life: waking up at 4 a.m. to see the temperatures going down... it was atrocious, but overall we were very lucky. After the first night, thinking of the solutions they adopt in France, I distributed 300 small bales of last year's pruning shoots on the 2.5 hectares most at risk, which I use to heat my house. The second night, a 4000m vineyard went down to -1 and I lit them, a few leaves burnt by the heat near the fires but no major damage".

Maurizio Favrel, Malibran - Susegana, Veneto

Giovanni Corvezzo - Cessalto, VenetoNo drama, farmers must also be prepared for this! Even a terrible frost like this one is part of nature... and if we are really moving towards sustainable, nature-friendly cultivation, we have to get used more and more to the concept that nature gives and takes away. We producers must stand together, together, especially at a time like this... accepting the fact that from 100 we will, if all goes well, produce 50.

frost in vineyards

Giovanni Corvezzo - Cessalto, Veneto

From Trentino-South Tyrol...

Lucia Letrari - Rovereto, Trentino-South TyrolUnfortunately, this frost really affected many producers and now we have to figure out how best to act on the vineyards so that we don't miss next year's harvest as well! This is a picture of the damage to one of the many vineyards in Rovereto affected by the frost. The damage will only be quantified in the next few days. Thank you for your solidarity... we winegrowers know more than most what it means to always be hanging on by a thread, but unity makes you feel the weight less!

Lucia Letrari - Rovereto, Trentino-South Tyrol

From the Aosta Valley...

Grosjean - Quart, Aosta ValleyIn our company, in the heart of the Aosta Valley, the damage from the 20 April frost was extensive. Around 70-75% of our vines were severely affected by Mother Nature's harshness, and although it is still too early to quantify the damage, it will certainly be a difficult year, with a lot of work and uncertain fruit. About a week after the dramatic frost, some tenacious vines are slowly showing signs of initial recovery, while others are still dormant and only the coming weeks will tell us more about the 2017 vintage. In short, there will certainly be a lot of work this year, more than in previous years, and the harvest will be bitter. But we are going ahead, agriculture, unfortunately, is also this'.

frost in vineyards

Grosjean - Quart, Aosta Valley

From Piedmont...

Piero Domenica Avezza, Ca' ed Curen - Mango, PiedmontWe as a company (fortunately) have very few vineyards at the bottom of the valley... but the strange thing about this year is that, perhaps due to the very strong wind, we had problems at fairly high altitudes of around 400 metres. At higher altitudes the big vines did not suffer, but the rooted cuttings did, especially the two-year-old ones. Overall, it went doubly well because this frost only affected a dozen or so rows of a vineyard... the blow had already arrived on Easter Saturday with a heavy thunderstorm that, after heavy rain, didn't even miss the hail.

frost in vineyards

Ca' ed Curen - Mango, Piedmont

Claudia, La Bioca - Serralunga d'Alba, PiedmontOur Chardonnay vineyard in Manforte d'Alba, due to the frost, had 40% of dead vines. Our Nebbiolo vineyard (suitable for becoming Barolo) in Novello, due to the frost, had 70% of dead vines. And in the meantime, we are waiting to quantify the hail damage to another of our Nebbiolo (fit to become Barolo) vineyards in La Morra."

La Bioca - Serralunga d'Alba, Piedmont

Davide Ghiga - Castiglione Tinello, PiedmontEnrico and I, young brothers aged 27 and 21, owners of the Ghiga company, had not yet encountered this kind of problem. Our grandparents can hardly remember a similar frost. Our company has around 11 hectares of vineyards, almost six of which were affected. The year has only just begun, hailstorms in neighbouring villages have devastated much of the new vegetation, and we fear it could also happen in Castiglione Tinella. Unfortunately, as farmers, we are at the mercy of nature. Thank you for your closeness to us farmers, we hope that many people understand what is really going on behind a bottle of wine'.

Azienda Agricola Ghiga - Castiglione Tinella, Piedmont

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frost in vineyards

Gianluca Morino - Castel Boglione, Piedmont

Camillo Favaro - Erbaluce, PiedmontOur part of Canavese has also been hit hard, but unevenly and unevenly (the other, lower areas are the most affected). I don't want to be superstitious, but 2017 has not started in the best of ways."

From Emilia-Romagna...

Gabriele Succi - Castel Bolognese, Emilia-RomagnaOut of 11 hectares of property, 1 hectare of vines in production and 1 hectare in breeding is practically gone. the one in breeding will hardly be able to develop a productive shoot for the next season."

Gabriele Succi - Castel Bolognese, Emilia-Romagna

From Tuscany...

Fabio de Ambrogi, Fattoria di Gratena - Arezzo, TuscanyWe had four hectares frozen at 80%, the lowest ones. The rest of the vineyards at 350 metres were fortunately all saved, but the loss is important for us. Like other colleagues, our work is now more and more difficult, changed weather and animals without any control that have forced us to turn the vineyards into lagers. Now we just have to hope that it rains, but in the right way!"

Julien, Casina di Cornia - Castellina in Chianti, TuscanyEven in Tuscany, although less than in northern Italy, we were surprised by the cold weather on 20 April... We were expecting, given the weather forecasts, a return of cold weather... but we hoped to save ourselves, strengthened by our latitude and the fact that we are an estate at medium, if not low, altitudes in the Chianti Classico area. We are located at 250-300 metres above sea level with a south-westerly exposure, which has always favoured us, even in bad vintages, in terms of seeking ripeness at harvest time. This time, however, our position worked against us: the cold morning in the valley.....! Since 1979 my father has been running the company, planting all the vineyards that we now manage with my brother Anselmo since 2010. As children of the countryside and agricultural work, we grew up on the farm, but it was in fact in 2010 that we decided to return to the 'nest' and run the business. I have to say that being a winemaker, if not a farmer in general, has now largely become a technique and a sixth sense... these last few years have in fact been a test and a 'school' of experiences that would normally accumulate over decades: from 2011-2012 with desert climates and 45°C weeks in August 2012 to the incredible 2014... a year with no real summer! It becomes difficult to change the way of working with a vision of progression towards a clear direction: drought, humidity, heat... because while changes in agronomic management can be made, they must be made starting with pruning and then following a line of management in the spring. It is utopian to think that one can correct the vagaries of the weather in the vineyard in real time... but so far it seems to remain more of a soothsayer's skill to predict the course of the season that may/must come. Coming to the facts of this frost wave: we had a March with physiological advancement of the vine of almost two weeks, given the warm temperatures above seasonal averages. We were, and still are, worried about the drought and lack of rainfall during the most important periods, such as the vegetative resumption, and no one expected a return of cold weather... but it arrived right on the vines with the flower buds already well formed: it could not have come at a worse time! On the morning of 21 April, at first glance, the vineyards below the house seemed to have exceeded the degree centigrade above zero marked by the weather station - a relief -, but in the morning my brother telephoned me to tell me that the damage was in the lower areas at the end of the slope. In fact, right where the slope ends, the vines have not withstood the night-time cold where temperatures have dropped below zero. In a state of despair, I stroll through all the vineyards... the damage is all in all limited... despite this, not being used to dealing with this oddity of the weather, I let myself be despondent, knowing that the next night should be even worse. As a winegrower, the strangest thing is to be faced with a baked-dry vineyard in the middle of springtime... the saddest thing is to be next to a vineyard in April that has died 'in your arms' without anyone's responsibility... Since we are not organised for such eventualities, since we have no heaters or other systems to combat late frosts, we seem to yield to entrusting our future to the decisions of the weather, or to our asses if we want to call it that... but then I decide that I prefer to cry knowing that I have tried to do something rather than remember my passivity in the face of events. So I draw on my father Antoine's stash of straw for the cows, load them onto the cart and, working until dark, distribute them all over the lowest parts of our vineyards... will they make smoke? Will it do any good? Will they burn long enough? We stay awake, the data from the night before tells us that the cold peak was between 5:00 am and 6:00 am... it's 10:00 pm and it's 4°C... every half hour we check with thermometer in hand... at 5:00 am we are just below 4°C:45 we're just below 4°C... it passed like that... it went by the skin of our teeth... almost a mockery... if only we had done the same the night before... THE PROMISED COLD THE SECOND NIGHT SAVED US... In almost 40 years we hadn't yet watched over Casina di Cornia at nights for fear of late frost! On the following days, as I took my daughter to school, I could see that the lower, flatter and more southerly areas of our neighbourhood were hit harder! FACED WITH THE SLIGHT EXTENT OF OUR LOSSES, I CAN ONLY TRY TO PUT MYSELF IN THE MOOD OF MY COLLEAGUES WHO HAVE TO DEAL WITH MUCH HEAVIER LOSSES...'.

frost in vineyards

Casina di Cornia - Chianti, Tuscany

From Umbria...

Francesco Mariani, Raina wines - Montefalco, UmbriaFour days after the event, this is the situation. I would like to start from the fourth photo, where you can see a fruit bud that has miraculously survived. Once the moment of despondency has passed, we start working again with our heads down, with the hope that something has been saved. The land and our plants are all we have, so we want to move forward with full confidence in the future. Over the last few days we have received so many messages of esteem and affection, I cannot thank you all here one by one: your closeness has been a great comfort to us, you have made us feel less alone. Many people ask us how they can help us: we sincerely would like to try to get back on our feet without having to accept gifts from anyone. However, there are several ways to give us concrete help: private individuals and operators can support us by continuing to buy our products. We are forced, after two years of frost, to slightly increase our list prices, I hope you will understand. Our winegrower friends, on the other hand, can give us a big hand by selling us grapes (obviously organic or biodynamic, preferably certified), if they have surplus.

frost in vineyards

Raina Wines - Montefalco, Umbria

From Lazio...

Pietro Lolli - Piglio, Ciociaria, LazioNow we give ourselves until mid-May to see the recovery. With optimism... trusting in the resources of our vines, which are certainly suffering more than we are. We have to be... we are starting from scratch with what nature offers us, but above all, we just have to pay the bill, what else can we do?"

Azienda Agricola F.ll Lolli - Lazio

From Campania...

Pasquale Clemente, Masseria Frattasi - Avellino, CampaniaMy company is in the south and has had centuries-old vineyards completely destroyed, like the entire province of Naples, Caserta, Benevento and Avellino we have had serious damage, and we are still waiting for relief from last year's frost and the various floods...."

Masseria Frattasi - Avellino, Campania

Maria de Gennaro, Rossovermiglio wines - Paduli, CampaniaThis is a falanghina vineyard, we are in Paduli, in the Sannio beneventano. There are just over six hectares reduced to this state. the worst thing is that the same company suffered extensive damage with the flood of 15 October 2015. With disasters we have done both!'

Rossovermiglio - Paduli, Campania

I have saved my adopted region, Lombardy, for last, because it was they, the Lombard winegrowers, that I first heard from. It was they, with their testimonies, who inspired me to write this article.

From Lombardy...

Riccardo Fratus - Franciacorta, LombardyOurs is one of the hardest hit areas... there are no words, only reflections. Let us move on."

frost in vineyards

Riccardo Fratus - Franciacorta, Lombardy

Alessia Berlusconi - Capriano del Colle, LombardyThese spring frosts were until recently truly extraordinary events that were difficult to predict. Instead, this year we had the same phenomenon as last year, and at exactly the same time. Different areas, but the same extensive damage. Last year it hit France, this time it was our turn, in Capriano del Colle, our friends in Franciacorta and Lugana. To arrive in the vineyards yesterday and see that havoc was an enormous pain. One thing is certain: we will no longer be taken by surprise. There are very few tools available but something can be done, at the cost of equipping ourselves with wings as in the film that all winegrowers hold in their hearts."

frost in vineyards

Alessia Berlusconi Wine / Vini La Contessa - Capriano del Colle, Lombardy

And it was Alessia Berlusconi and Marina Rivola of La Contessa wines that reminded me of the beauty of this film! Il profumo del mosto selvatico is one of the most beautiful wine-themed films of all time... along with Un'ottima annata. I think every winelover should watch it at least once in their life... I just ordered both on Amazon taking advantage of the free 1 working day shipping with Amazon Prime (I am doing the trial period right now, which is free)... if you want them too, here is the link. I then love to watch wine-themed films....

The fatality of an event such as this, the desperate attempt to limit the damage... and then the rebuilding from the ashes... this is the driving force behind the film, which, like Banana Yoshimoto's Sad Omen, was showing on Sky on the very evening of the disaster. This frost will certainly remain engraved in the hearts of all the vine-dressers whose year's work was taken away in a single night. Of course new buds may be born, but they will be less fruitful and certainly of lower quality than the previous ones.

When I hear people say that loving and understanding wine is not for simple people, but rather for pussies... well, it makes me really sad to think how much ignorance is hidden behind such statements. To love wine is to love Nature, to love those who work her and to love their product. I believe that to be a winemaker, but in general this is true for anyone who cultivates the land and lives off its fruits, takes a lot of courage because, to the classic problems of a 'normal' business such as customers who do not pay or pay late, bureaucracy, expenses... there is also the aggravating factor of Nature's unpredictability. It is now 10 years, or maybe even longer, that our climate has gone mad... mainly due to our misuse of energy resources. We are children of a world that demands we consume, spend and buy. Many of us do not care about the quality of what we eat and drink, but only about quantity, forgetting that we really are what we eat. Choosing the best petrol for our car is important for better performance, including better fuel efficiency. What do you think will happen to our body if we introduce bad petrol?

[Tweet "Drink less, drink better. Drink less, drink better. #wine #wine']

Please, if you are one of those who grimaces if a wine costs more than 10 €, stop it! There are so many grape varieties, so many ways of producing wine, so many appellations... the costs are different to begin with. But above all, there are many stories, good and bad, including this one: the sad story of a frost that destroyed or ruined a year's earnings, shattered dreams, messed up families.

All that remains for me is to hope in a benevolent Nature, which will now perform a miracle and save the harvest, or at least a part of it, even in the most devastated areas. I want to believe, however, that with what remains, a very good year will be born. Perhaps different from the previous one, certainly suffered and at times compromised, but good nonetheless.

Thank you very much to all the producers who contributed with their words... and thanks also to all the others whom I did not contact for reasons of time, but to whom I am nevertheless close. For my part, I will do everything I can to help you through this disaster by giving you a voice and talking about you and your wine. I await new photos and new statements from you producers about the frost and your vintage to add to this article. This page is in fact for you: feel free to talk about whatever you want (thoughts on the year, how insurance works, the state of natural disasters, frost, what you would like from your region...).

A big hug to all,

Chiara

Finally, I want to add a few testimonies from other winemakers who have written to me,

they did not experience the frost directly,

but they warmly embrace their affected colleagues

and tell us about the weather situation in their area.

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Anna Maria Abbona - Farigliano, Piedmont"I would like to thank you very much for your sensitivity and attention to companies that, like us, work with nature and its bizarre 'ups and downs'. We too, like all winegrowers in northern Italy, spent a week with bated breath, day after day watching the thermometer on one side and the buds on the other, which, deceived by an early spring, had elongated prematurely. Hearing the stories of our colleagues and seeing the pictures of the affected vineyards, we feel really lucky because at the moment we have had no problems with frost. Our vineyards are located at an altitude ranging from 500 to 570 metres above sea level, and we have not been affected by the humidity that affects the valley bottoms more, nor by the cold currents that arrive in this area from the Tanaro. I join in the discouragement of all those who work in this profession and those who love quality wine, and I hope that this phenomenon will not be repeated, since there is no memory of such an event here in living memory...".

Stefano Illuminati - Controguerra, AbruzzoWe thank you for your message and interest. We would like to inform you that fortunately in Abruzzo, in the province of Teramo in the Colline Teramane DOCG area, we did not suffer any damage from last week's frost."

Morena Trerè - Faenza, Emilia-RomagnaSolidarity with all Italian winegrowers and a call for help also for all operators and employees who will be out of work."

Alessia Salvioni - Montalcino, TuscanyFortunately, our vineyards are at an altitude of 400 metres and were saved from the cold winds and frost. I understand the desperation of the vine growers who have lost a year's harvest in a single hour, and I am close to them, unfortunately we all have to deal with nature on a daily basis from hail to drought to even animals that more and more often, if the vineyards are not closed off by ugly fences, come in to eat between our rows... so yes, you have to have great passion to be in the vineyard and pull yourself up once again."

Giorgio Colutta - Manzano, Friuli-Venezia GiuliaThank you for your e-mail full of affection and solidarity. Fortunately, in the area where I have vineyards, in the heart of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, the effects of the frost were not disastrous. In the Buttrio area, an amphitheatre that always enjoys a few degrees more, which often leads us to harvest earlier than our colleagues in neighbouring areas, only a few vineyards at the bottom of the valley in the Sauvignon, Refosco and Prosecco varieties were affected, within the limits of a 10-15%. In the other area of Rosazzo, which is higher and more windy, no major damage was reported. I therefore believe that luck has been with us, also because in many areas we have seen how the passage of the cold current has burnt some vineyards almost completely and others just a few metres away."

Marika Socci - Castelplanio, Marche"We thank you very much for this thought, we experienced days of anxiety but in the end we were very lucky, our vines are healthy. I am close with all my heart to all colleagues who have unfortunately been affected by this sudden cold and I say 'come on' to everyone!"

Maria Donata Bianchi - Diano Arentino, LiguriaWe are a family of winegrowers in Liguria and fortunately we have not suffered any damage... We are close to our damaged brothers as we are well aware of the hardships of this wonderful job. We want to thank you for this magnificent initiative, which helps to highlight the many problems of these difficult days'.

Donato Pinto, Olimpia Agricola - Locorotondo, ApuliaGood morning to you all. Also in Valle d'Itria Locorotondo and neighbouring municipalities and in particular in Canale di Pirro (Fasano.Monopoli) the frost of 23.4.17 burnt many areas of white grapes. My vineyards were almost all saved due to their more ventilated geographical position than the Canale di Pirro. I understand the pain and despair of the less fortunate. Take courage and move on."

Giulia Franchetto, Cantine Franchetto - Terrosa di Roncà, Veneto - "As far as the frost is concerned, we can consider ourselves very lucky because we were only affected in a few areas. This was not the case for several of our friends/colleagues/cousins... we had some really bad nights! Unfortunately, we can't do much against Mother Nature. I repeat, however, that we can consider ourselves very lucky.
The season is still very long, we are just at the beginning. It is difficult to express ourselves now, and I don't want to. Like every year, we will follow the course of the season and try to do our best, respecting the environment in which we find ourselves and which gives us a living. Every year is different and that can be scary, but at the same time (at least for us who live in direct contact with nature) very fascinating.

Gianfranco Daino - Caltagirone, CataniaI sympathise with my winegrower friends for what happened. Fortunately nothing happened here, in fact it's going well, temperatures lower than average for the period, rain at the right time and constant sunshine."

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