Winemakers in France find themselves in a battle to save their crops. Over the past week an unexpected frost has threatened this year’s harvest, leaving producers to take drastic measures in order to protect their vines: interspersing fires between vines.
As reported by The Local, French winemakers are trying to keep frost, cold temperatures, and even snow from wreaking havoc on their yield during this sudden cold snap. And in an effort to create a suitable growing temperature around the vines, farmers are lighting “crop candles,” large cans of burning paraffin in their fields.
There’s a haunting beauty to the photos of the crop candles that have made their way to social media. Row upon row of flames can be found illuminating the French countryside.
Driving through St Emilion this morning can confirm the vineyards were burning brightly in an attempt too keep off the frost
— Franglaise (@luxurygite) April 8, 2021
Watching all the winemakers in Burgundy, Sauternes and the Loire light small fires trying to save this vintage from late frost- Bon courage, mes amis 🤞 pic.twitter.com/oWLS4b6XiV
— Kate Masterofwhine 🕷 (@Masterofwhine) April 7, 2021
But even with crop candles offering a potential to curb the devastation, many winemakers find themselves having to make tough decisions. Running around €10 per candle, some producers are not able to protect their entire field and must decide where to concentrate their conservation efforts. One winemaker, Claire Lelais, applied 1,000 candles to a three hectare parcel, less than one percent of her total 350-400 hectare plot. And with multiple nights of potentially freezing temperatures, deciding when to light the candles add an additional factor in deciding when to use their limited heat resources.
Even still, the efforts may be all for not, as the efficacy of the crop candles isn’t yet known. “We will know in a few days if it worked,” Lelais tells French news site Actu.fr.
Thanks to global warming, late frosts have become an increasing worry for winemakers in France. What was once an irregular occurrence is now a near yearly potential disaster for producers to try and navigate. Just a single night of unexpectedly low temperatures can ruin an entire year's work and the livelihood associated with it. Crop candles may provide a temporary solution, if only an imperfect one, but what the longterm answer will be remains unknown.