Why are Italian winemakers setting their vineyards ablaze?

The Local Italy
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Why are Italian winemakers setting their vineyards ablaze?
Why are northern Italian vineyards all lit up? Photo: Abbazia di Novacella/Facebook

The vineyards of northern Italy have been burning bright this week as winemakers light thousands of torches across the slopes. But why?


It's an enterprising solution to a perennial problem: the weather. 

As frost and snow returned unseasonably late to swathes of the north, winemakers sought to protect their vines from subzero temperatures, which can wipe out tender new growth where grapes are just starting to emerge.

"Any more than one degree below zero and you're really in trouble," winemaker Andreas Huber told Ansa from Alto Adige (South Tyrol), where temperatures of between -3 and -9 degrees C were recorded on Wednesday morning.

Seeing the forecast, he and other winemakers prepared by positioning hundreds of "anti-frost" torches every few metres throughout their vineyards, setting them ablaze as the mercury started to fall.

In the neighbouring province of Trentino, which saw its lowest temperatures since 1987, farmers took anti-frost precautions in vineyards and apple orchards. Since most are on lower slopes, they are thought to have escaped the worst of the freeze.

Photo: Abbazia di Novacella/Facebook

Winemakers in the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany adopted the tactic too.


A post shared by Rete Meteo Amatori (@retemeteoamatori) on May 8, 2019 at 10:29pm PDT

The effect looks magical, but not only. Lighting 300 torches over one hectare raises the temperature by roughly three degrees, according to Huber, a difference that could prove crucial.

Farmers' union Coldiretti estimates that the recent cold snap, coming after an early and unusually warm start to the year, could lay waste to millions of euros' worth of crops.

The bad weather is forecast to continue this weekend, with heavy rain and storms sweeping across northern and central Italy. There's even a chance of more snow in the Alps, where unseasonal snowfall has left towns looking decidedly more wintery than spring-like. 

READ ALSO: Freak storms hit Italy leaving one man dead and another missing



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