The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Vintners light fires to save vines


WINEMAKERS have lit thousands of small fires to ward off frost which is set to badly hit this year’s production, according to industry experts.

The vineyard fires have caused a layer of smog in the southeast of France, local authoritie­s reported.

The practice of lighting fires or candles near vines or fruit trees to prevent the formation of frost is a long-standing technique used in early spring when the first green shoots are vulnerable to the cold.

Whole hillsides look as if they are ablaze, creating a striking visual effect, with winemakers scrambling this week as temperatur­es plunged to below freezing, particular­ly in the fertile Rhone valley in southeast France.

The frost which has hit a large proportion of French vineyards in recent days is “one of the most serious in recent decades” and will cut production of the year, the CNIV national winemakers’ associatio­n warned.

“We already know that we will have a very low harvest in 2021,” said Jean-Marie Barillere, head of the Comite Europeen des Entreprise­s Vins, a European wine trade group.

The frost has “affected 80 per cent of French vineyards”, he said. “Arborists and wine growers have just suffered a dark week.”

Regional air quality monitoring body Atmo AuvergneRh­one-Alpes issued a warning about the fire-induced finepartic­le pollution in the southeast region which includes the city of Lyon where a layer of smog was visible.

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