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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 206, May 2021   
Frosty AprilFrosty April  Contents 
Issue 205, April 2021 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 207, June 2021

Frosty April


 Spring, for those involved in agriculture, and therefore in viticulture, is that season which brings with it the renewed hope of rebirth, but also the fear of nefarious events which could transform that rebirth into an anticipated death. In some cases, moreover, these unfortunate events directly cause the non-rebirth. Anyone involved in agriculture is always forced to check, often with a certain apprehension, what happens both “in heaven” and “on earth”, as good and bad news can come from both sides. The only certainty is that – in the case of “bad news” – you will have to try to remedy or prevent, as far as possible, by saving everything that can be saved. It is not always possible to remedy, therefore, those who cultivate the land are not always able to harvest the fruit of their work. Furthermore, by considering those who “work the land” legitimately wish for the “fruits” in the form of economic profits, the loss and regret are double.


 

 April, the month that should express spring in its splendor of flowers and mild temperatures, can sometimes – unfortunately – bring bad surprises and, when Mother Nature bestows them this month, the consequences are serious and worrying. Indeed, among the fearsome events of April there are sudden and significant drops in temperature, hence the real risk of frosts. This phenomenon, in fact, directly affects the young shoots of plants, which – fragile and defenseless – are irreparably damaged, often causing their “death” as well. Without buds, of course, there will be no flowers, without flowers there will be no fruit. In some circumstances, and depending on the moment in which the frost occurs, the plant stubbornly tries again to generate new shoots, a condition that is always and in any case dependent on the course of the meteorological conditions of spring. New shoots which, however, do not have the “productive strength” of those lost because of the frost, but – as they say – it is always better than nothing.

 In recent days, the images from France, indeed, from French vineyards, have hit the news and arising a particular interest. The news has been particularly made spectacular by the aerial images that showed the controlled fires inside the vineyards with the aim of contrasting the terrible effects of the April frost. The expedient – certainly suggestive and that no vintner would like to see – aims to create a layer of smoke above the vineyard in order to limit and avoid the effects of the icy temperature. By looking at them, those images coming from France, gave the impression that a huge area of vineyards were in flames, in reality, they were simply trying to limit the damage by means of a show that no vintner would like to attend. In general terms, this expedient is effective in limiting possible future damage to fragile and young shoots – trusting in Mother Nature's clemency – and it is completely ineffective for those who, unfortunately, have already been damaged by the frost.

 The spectacular aerial images of French vineyards almost made us ignore what, no less worrying, has happened in Italy. In fact, April has also been very severe with Italian vineyards and, more generally, with the entire agricultural activities of the country. It is not my intention – of course – to diminish the severity of the frosts that hit the vineyards of France, as French vintners have suffered enormous damages because of the frosts, with an estimated destruction of the vineyards between 50 and 80%. The first estimates, in fact, amount to about two billion euros in damages and the French government, with commendable promptness, has already allocated one billion euros to support vintners and farmers. Also in Italy the frosts in April produced significant damage and losses and, according to Confagricoltura (a national confederation of farmers), the estimate currently amounts to one billion euros. The implicit invitation is for the effective and immediate intervention of the competent political authorities which will hopefully and promptly take appropriate actions to support Italian farmers and vintners.

 One would say “it never rains but it pours”. The critical condition of the Italian wine trade – already severely hit by the economic consequences produced by the Covid-19 pandemic – would be further aggravated by the risk of losses in the 2021 season. The consequences of Brexit – the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union – with the consequent procedures of bureaucratic and administrative constraints, according to the Centro Studi Divulga, have already caused a 36% decrease in wine exports. This is not good news – in my opinion, not even for the citizens of the United Kingdom, as their exports have dropped as well – as this country represents one of the most important foreign markets for Italian wineries. The frosts in April have therefore further contributed to the worsening of future market opportunities for Italian wine, by also considering that – in certain areas – it is estimated the loss of several thousand hectares of vineyards.

 Not only vineyards, of course, as the loss and damage have affected the entire agricultural sector with an estimate of damage to production ranging between 80 and 90%. In this regard – and by specifically considering the condition of the vineyards in Italy – the damage caused by the frosts occurred in limited areas, however extended throughout the Italian territory. In particular, according to initial estimates, the vineyards that suffered the most damage are those located in the mid-hill and valley floor areas, mainly destroying the buds of the early ripening varieties. Among the regions to report the most important damage are Umbria and Tuscany as well as some territories of Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. The southern regions are among the least affected ones. While hoping there will be no further consequences, and while waiting for more in-depth checks, no significant decreases in wine production are expected in Italy – according to the farmer and vintner associations –, with the exception, unfortunately, of the most affected areas.

 It is the repetition of the cycle of the seasons, always carrying with it the unpredictability and, sometimes, the inevitable consequences of certain negative events. In fact, Mother Nature is not always merciful and magnanimous with those who live between heaven and earth. In some cases – let's not forget this – it is man who conditions and alters the cycle and stability of natural events, in others it is simply the course of Nature and for which, very often, we are unarmed, suffering the extreme consequences without any possibility of intervention. Nature gives, Nature takes away. This is something known very well – and they find this out for themselves – by those who work the land and from the land trust to harvest the fruits of their labor. This is not, of course, a passive conclusion to the resignation of having to undergo the whims of Mother Nature's fate, it simply is the evidence of a possible risk. As always, we must wait for the end of the harvest and after that – and only after that – we can breathe a liberating sigh of relief by raising the glass and making a toast to the good luck and the good job done. And also to Mother Nature.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 206, May 2021   
Frosty AprilFrosty April  Contents 
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