Vast areas of the UK were hit by spring frosts in the second week of May, affecting a significant proportion of English vineyards, some who had never had issues with frosts before, and we were no exception. With the risk of frost threatening to damage the young growth on the vines, we lit our bougies (pronounced ‘bou-jis’) for the first time in our history. This was the latest frost we’ve known since we planted the vineyard in 2007.
Used all over the world to mitigate against Spring frosts (although not usually in Gloucestershire!), bougies are lit by vineyards to protect the young and tender growth on the vines against frost damage. The anti frost candles or bougies are strategically placed in pockets of the vineyard (in this instance our Woodchester site) that are particularly prone to frost, and are lit when the temperatures fall to 0 and are predicted to go to -2 or below . They enable the circulation of heated air at the height of the vines to keep the temperature above 0 degrees.
Bougies alight in the early hours of 12th May 2020
Bougies 12th May 2020
In the early hours of 12th May 2020 the temperatures plummeted to -1.7 degrees at around 3:30am and there was no wind at all. Founder Fiona, winemaker Jeremy and the vineyard team, plus a few 'willing' extras were up all night monitoring the c. 1,000 bougies and the temperatures, with the mercury finally moving above 0 at 6.45am in the morning. A second wave hit in the early hours of 14th May so it was another sleepless night for the vineyard team.
In the 2 minute video below, Fiona examines the aftermath of the frosts and explains how the bougies work.