The effects of this winter in WNY have extended far beyond the bitter wind chills. It could impact you the next time you buy a bottle of wine.
The extreme cold has taken a toll, not only on people and animals, but also local grape producers, who are taking a good hard look at the grape vines that are expected to produce the next crop. The Niagara and Concord grapes seem to be surviving with near average bud kill.
But Luke Haggerty of Cornell Lake Erie Research Lab said, “The wine grapes, that’s a different story. Every couple days I have growers bringing in canes, and what they are doing, is they want to know damage assessment on the buds from the cold weather.”
Even on a cold winter day, cuts are made into the grape vine buds at the Cornell Lake Erie Research Lab at Brocton. If the cuts reveal green the bud is healthy. If the inside of the bud has turned black, it will no longer produce grapes. Unfortunately, this has been the case with the more highly susceptible wine grapes.
“The wines that you are used to seeing in the stores or wineries, your Rieslings, and some of the Cabernets, those are the ones that were hit the hardest,” Haggerty said.
Present estimates put that damage at between 58 to 71 percent. Today, out in the vineyards, growers were adjusting the vine pruning that takes place every year around this time.
Rick Walker of Walker’s Farm in Forestville said, “Definitely, definitely, we’re going to be leaving more buds, so that some of those that are dead will make up for those by leaving more.”
And to add to that, it will not be until Spring when growers will be able to fully determine if the grape vine trunks were also hit. If that’s the case, the impact could be longer lasting – up to two to three years.
Ultimately, the California drought combined with an exceptionally cold winter in the East will most likely determine the price you pay for wine. It’s all about supply and demand.
“I don’t think that we’re going to see it on the natives, Concord and Niagara grapes, because there was an abundant crop last year. So there’s quite an inventory. We’re not going to see a difference. Yes, on the wine varieties, the hybrids, something this area is noted for, yes, you will probably see a price increase,” Walker said.
Growers are also very concerned about possible major temperature fluctuations this Spring which could contribute to even more grape vine damage.