April Frosts, Deer Damage and Inflorescence Visible

Fiona Shiner, Founder

There is no such thing as a virtual vineyard and the vines are shooting into  the 2020 season … tied down yes but lockdown….ummm ? 

Last month was one of the sunniest April’s on record and the vines have loved basking in the  sunshine and benefitted from some well timed bouts of rain…...they have survived the early frosts  and generally all is looking good. 


In May the young shoots grow rapidly but there is still a danger of a late spring frost which can devastate a vineyard’s yield. Some weather stations are forecasting temperatures  of -1 degrees (aaahh!) early next week…. nervous times… we may yet have to light our bougies. Bougies are anti frost candles, small pots of stearin wax which are lit in vineyards around the world to prevent or minimise frost damage. 

Usually lit in the anti social hours of the early morning - the red-eye shift …  the vineyard looks from a distance as if hundreds of tealights are decorating the vines. We have not yet used bougies in our vineyards but we are getting to know our frost prone areas and have some in stock …. 'just in case' . Below is a picture of vineyards warding off the frost in Burgundy earlier this year - we hope they did the job.

One of our Bougies 

Bougies in Puligny-Montrachet

Not every bud has escaped the frost so far….

To the forefront of this photo is a frost burnt bud in our Inchbrook vineyard following the early April cold spell. You can see a bud further up the cane is undamaged. A second bud will replace the frosted bud, but these are generally less fruitful and valuable time has been lost in our cool climate season. 


Another threat to the young shoots at this time of year is damage from deer. We have deer fenced all our vineyards to keep the deer out at great expense but the grass is always greener and I am convinced the local roe deer and muntjac are Trekkies…‘beam me in, up, over and out ...Scotty’ They are extremely elusive and love the tender young shoots which are nipped off around the perimeter of the vineyard… see below a damaged cane and a normal cane in the same row.

Damaged Cane – oh deer!

Normal Cane


Each vine variety has it’s own personality.   A comparison between some Early Pinot vines at Stonehouse with some Seyval Blanc vines taken this May on the same day is interesting.

The grapes from the Early Pinot vines in our Folly Field at Stonehouse are the first to be picked at harvest and go into the Pinot Noir Rosé and the Atcombe Red.  At this stage the shoots are longer than the Seyval, the leaves are greener and the inflorescences (grape flower clusters) are modest. These vines produce delicate small red berries on modest bunches most years.

There is nothing modest about the inflorescence of the Seyval Blanc vines - they brazenly dominate the shoots, which are much shorter and at this time of the year the leaves look anemic, a sickly yellow/green in comparison. Seen side by side, the marked colour difference would suggest a deficiency but as the season progresses the Seyval Blanc vine leaves turn a vibrant green.  As you would imagine, the bunches of the Seyval Blanc vines are big with large, juicy grapes … and these go into our Cotswold Classic Sparkling Wine and our Culver Hill still white blend.

Early Pinot Noir at Stonehouse

Seyval Blanc at Stonehouse




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