A few weeks ago I wrote about the danger of early bud break. Bud break is when grape vines, after winter dormancy, start to grow again when weather warms and spring begins. All good right?
Not so fast. In the Midwest, the biggest danger for vineyard managers is the threat that after bud break, there will be a cold spell and killing frost. When that happens, the buds will die and it becomes a disaster since the entire growing season is destroyed.
That is what happened this week up in Wisconsin. One of the country's oldest wineries, Wollersheim Winery, experienced a freeze and has lost up to 80% of its anticipated crop for this coming season.
The folks at Wollersheim import grapes as well as grow their own so they will still be able to produce wine. But it will have to be labeled differently by law. It sounds like they will have a limited amount of estate grown grapes this season and will have to blend with out of state juice meaning their label will have to state, by TTB rules, the produce is "American".
In any case, all Midwest wine lovers should understand that this is one of the biggest challenges of being a winemaker in the middle of America. Even when using cold climate hardy grapes, the return of a frost after bud break is a challenge not faced in California, Southern France, or Italy!