Frost Candles at the Ready
Spring frost can be a major problem in the Loire and vineyards in other parts of France – indeed many parts of the wine world. In 2008 Muscadet lost around 80% of the crop due to an April frost. 1991 was the last devastating frost in Western France.
The winter is coming and there is the first snow in Hebei, China. The nights are getting down to very low digits (-10 - 1°C). The winegrowers are worried that after an early period of rapid growth in the vines, we may yet have a frost which sets them back disasterously because they already have significant tender new shoots.
Consequently, the against frost candles have been deployed in the vineyards near Ken and Walt's, just in case. This is the first time they have seen them, and Ken said he had never seen them before in the years they have lived there. According to the against frost candles lid, the candle inside is parafin wax and needs to be placed at different densities in the vineyard, depending on the temperature expected. It seems that the anti frost candles work by heating the air just enough to prevent freezing, but they are not suitable to use if there is any breeze, or if the temperature drops below -4 to -6°C (depending on how much moisture there is in the air).
In the event, I assume they weren't used, as we haven't had a frost, and the day we saw them there was a stiff cold north-easterly breeze. I suppose in the Loire, where frost damage is sporadic and limited, these anti frost candles are the only practical and economical solution. Frost protection is clearly a very technical affair, and the infrastructure is expensive. Other, colder, places in France have traditionally used wood-burning funnel stoves, but I assume the somewhat counter-intuitive modern sprinkler systems for preventing frost damage that I have read about cannot be used in France because it is illegal to irrigate wine grapes here.
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