Above: a farm in Montalcino burns hay to protect vineyards during a late spring freeze this week across central and northern Italy (image via the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium Facebook).
According to a widely disseminated blog post by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium, temperatures in the appellation have dropped to nearly 15° F. this week. In order to protect their vineyards from frost damage, many growers have been burning hay to warm the vines (as in the photo above, published this week by the consortium).
This late spring freeze comes at a delicate time for winemakers across central Italy as well as the northern regions, where there have also been widespread reports of damage. Once the plants have begun to bud, an extreme freeze can arrest formation of the clusters.
According to mainstream media reports, this year’s freeze is the latest in a string of three consecutive vegetative cycles that have been affected by frost damage. But the latest extreme weather event appears to be the worst.
The freeze couldn’t have come at a worse time for winemakers. Nearly all of Italy is still on complete lockdown and restaurants and cafés remained closed except for take-away orders. To give you a sense of the restrictions for private citizens living in small towns, most are not allowed to travel beyond a five-kilometer radius from their homes. (Earlier this week, restaurateurs in Rome clashed with police as they protested the continued restrictions.)
“In the middle of the night,” wrote the editors of the Brunello Consortium’s social media, “producers banded together in an effort to keep the temperatures from dipping too low in the vineyards. This is an important period [for grape growing] because the vines are at the beginning of their vegetative [productive] phase.”