One of the most beautiful and perplexing occurrences in the vineyard happens some years in April and May when temperatures drop into the danger zone after the grape buds have pushed. Luckily, at our most frost-prone sites we have overhead frost protection sprinklers that allow grapes to survive temperatures as low as 24 degrees.
It’s counter intuitive that encasing vulnerable buds in ice keeps them warm. But if you think of cold as the absence of heat, it begins to make sense. Ice forms when water gives off heat, so as long as you continue adding water to freeze it warms the grapes. The result is a crystalline structure of trellis wires with tender shoots cloaked in ice cocoons – short term cryogenics – at once terrifying and beautiful.
Nature has it’s own amazing survival strategy where we can’t frost protect. Last year’s shoots formed this years buds, but they did so in triplicate. If the first shoot dies, whether by frost or forage, a second, fruitful shoot sprouts. If that dies a third shoot grows but produces only leaves. Its sole focus is survival of the parent plant.