Polar vortex wipes out 2014 Niagara Merlot

4th August, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

The polar vortex earlier this year has all but wiped out the Merlot crop in Niagara, with Sauvignon Blanc also severely affected.

Snow covered vineyard in Niagara

A snow-covered vineyard in Niagara

As reported by CBC News, both Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc were casualties of the polar vortex that plagued southern Ontario this winter, with the freezing spell taking its toll on grape vines in the region.

“You won’t see a 2014 merlot from Niagara. That just will not happen. There won’t be any,” Derek Saunders of Calamus Estate Winery in Ontario told CBC News.

“The quantities of Sauvignon Blanc will be tiny, but you work in a business where Mother Nature is in charge. That’s the deal,” he added.

CBC News reports that the bud survival rates for Sauvignon Blanc ranged from 8% along Lake Erie’s north shore to 51% at in central Niagara, while just 4% of the Merlot from Lake Erie’s north shore survived compared to 64% along the Niagara lakeshore.

While Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah suffered from the effects of the polar vortex, Riseling, Vidal and Baco Noir fared better, though the extent of the damage to the grapes is still unclear as the 2014 harvest has yet to take place.

“This is a bit of wait-and-see because of all the variable conditions we have. We’ve got to wait and see how the harvest progresses,” Debbie Zimmerman, CEO of Grape Growers of Ontario told CBC News.

Canadian grape growers are experimenting with new techniques to combat damage to grapes during harsh winters including wind machines that mix the cold air that settles on the ground with the warm air above it.

In contrast to this year, Ontario had a banner year in 2013, when a record 79,756 tonnes of grapes were harvested.

3 Responses to “Polar vortex wipes out 2014 Niagara Merlot”

  1. Duncan Ross says:

    On the Niagara Escarpment, we have Merlot and Syrah that came through the winter with minor damage…. so there will be Merlot and Syrah in Niagara USA in 2014. The escarpment region is a fairly small percentage of the total pantings in the region. The frequent rain is posing the largest challenge for us in 2014. .

  2. Michele Bosc says:

    There is no doubt that the polar vortex, among other factors, has significantly reduced the crop across the board in Ontario. But to say there will not be a Merlot from Niagara is a bit of an overstatement. Our vineyards are located at the Eastern end of Niagara, a fair distance from Calamus’ vineyards. We do have healthy Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc hanging, soon to start verasion. We prefer to make absolute statements about a crop after we have it securely in the winery and we know exactly what we are dealing with.
    Michele Bosc
    Chateau des Charmes Wines

  3. Rick Schofield says:

    It’s OK – Niagara should just stick to what it does best: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay Zweigelt, and a few others … no manipulation, no appassimento, etc

    Rick Schofield
    Port Ewen, NY

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