UK vineyards grapple with late frost

Staff at UK vineyards were working around the clock last week as wine producers saw some of the latest frost ever experienced, with one vineyard suffering damage for the first time in 46 years.

Fighting frost. Image: Coates & Seely

Breaky Bottom in East Sussex posted images of its frost-stricken vines on Twitter after experiencing significant damage for the first time since planting in 1974.

It is one of several vineyards in the UK that experienced between 90 and 100% frost damage, according to a survey conducted by English wine specialist Stephen Skelton MW.

A total of 181 frosts were reported at vineyards from North Yorkshire to Cornwall, according to Skelton’s survey, which mapped the frost across the UK.

72 vineyards reported 0-10% damage to vines, however 61 reported losses ranging from 50% to 100%.

Minimum temperatures experienced last week ranged from -0.5°C to -5.5°C, Skelton’s survey found. The full survey can be found here. 

Writing in its vineyard diary, Hampshire’s Coates & Seely was forced to light torches and use its frost fan as temperatures plummeted. Fenny Castle Vineyard in Somerset also lit fires, stating on Instagram that the frost experienced last week was the latest it had ever experienced. This was also the case for Buckinghamshire’s Harrow & Hope, but thankfully the producer made it out of the week “damage-free”, it stated on social media.

However, speaking to the drinks business last week, Mark Driver, co-owner of Rathfinny in Alfriston said his vineyard had escaped frost entirely.

He explained that the single-site vineyard, which is planted just three miles from the sea, avoided damage. He said the site’s positioning and the breezes that blow through it kept temperatures above freezing, with a minimum temperature of three degrees last Wednesday evening.

Nevertheless, for others that have suffered damage, the frost is another blow for an industry already dealing with the effects of coronavirus. Wineries, particularly those that are largely reliant on the on-trade, have been hit hard as visitor centres have closed and previous sales channels dried up.

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