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Frost wrecks Valais vineyards

Winegrowers sprayed water on their vineyards to protect blooming buds with a thin layer of ice Keystone

Last week’s frosty weather devastated 40% of vineyards in canton Valais, officials estimate. Other Swiss wine regions were also badly affected by the cold snap.

This content was published on April 25, 2017 - 20:48
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“Over three nights winegrowers and fruit farmers have lost almost all of their harvests,” Gerald Dayer, head of the canton’s agricultural service, told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s dramatic as it means they have lost their annual incomes.”

An initial report shows that 2,000 hectares of vineyards – 40% of the total in canton Valais – were damaged by three frosty nights in a row last week. It is estimated that half of the canton’s total apricot harvest has also been lost.

Temperatures in Switzerland fell to below zero during the second half of last week, with some regions as low as -12 Celsius. Such weather conditions are “extremely unusual for the second half of April”, MeteoNews said in a statement.

Other wine regions were also badly affected by the cold weather last week, including Vully, between lakes Murten and Neuchâtel, and German-speaking regions, such as around Lake Zurich. Vineyards in Neuchâtel and Vaud were hit to a lesser extent.

On average, 10-20% of Swiss wine harvests could be in danger, according to the Swiss Winemakers’ Association. A complete overview of the situation should be available in three to four weeks.

Switzerland's wine-growing surface covers approximately 15,000 hectares (the size of Alsace). Vineyards are found in practically all of the 26 cantons, in highly variable quantities. The country is subdivided into six official winegrowing regions: Valais (5,113 hectares), Vaud (3,838), German-speaking Switzerland (2,593), Geneva (1,297), Ticino (1,065) and the Three-Lakes region (940).

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