WHAT HAS THE POLAR VORTEX DONE TO THE NIAGARA ICE WINE SPECIALIST GRAPES?
The fascinating news from the Niagara Ice wine Specialist; The Ice House Winery is the threat of the Polar Vortex. When making Icewine, cold is good but extreme consistent, cold that comes with "The Polar Vortex" is not good! The Vortex in Niagara created potentially dangerous temperatures for the Niagara vineyards.
If you remember grade 11 Biology there is a primary bud, a secondary and a tertiary bud on grapes. If all goes well the primary bud will “ break” in the spring and start a normal growth cycle. Primary bud activity will inhibit growth of the other two, but if the primary is damaged (frozen) the secondary will take over and only produce a 30% to 50% crop load. If the tertiary – the hardiest – is forced out all growth will be vegetative i.e. no fruit or wine will be produced that year.
When it is cold, growers cut into the buds with razor blades to examine them and assess the damage. This may lead to delayed and selective pruning. Growing grapes for wine is risky business, growing grapes for Icewine is even riskier. Visit Wineries Niagara and learn more about the complexity of making Icewine at The Ice House Winery.
NIAGARA ICE WINE SPECIALIST DEPENDS ON MOTHER NATURE
Mother Nature decides whether Icewine grapes will survive and thrive each year. The most serious problem in making wine is trunk damage or “winter kill”. This is where the xylem and the phloem are damaged. Remembering grade 9 Biology, the xylem and the phloem are the pipelines between the roots, vegetative growth and the fruiting zone flowing through the trunk or wood.
Excessive cold or severe temperature fluctuations can lead to a rapid freezing (and deadly expansion) of the liquid in the system “exploding” the walls of the tubes. (If this bursting happens in our brains we call this a stroke). Not good!
Unfortunately, the existence or extent of winter kill cannot be quantified. Grape vines with winter kill can still initiate bud break because there is enough “fuel” in the canes without yet depending on their roots. New grapes may appear normal until the new shoot withers and dies. Yikes!
When winter kill occurs grape growers may decide when pruning to bring up a “sucker” as a potential new trunk. If the old trunk is sound the sucker will be pruned away. If the trunk is damaged, the old will be removed and the new trunk will be established through the sucker. Good news – a live plant. Bad news – no fruit and therefore no wine or Icewine.
Making Icewine is a complicated process and without Mother Nature’s blessings it just doesn't happen. If you are down in Niagara this spring, watch the vineyard management and you will hear about Mother Nature’s challenges from the tough winters of 2014 and 2015.