As some of you may remember, at about this time last year, 28th of April, Burgundy was battling with the risk of Spring frost. The situation is not mirrored in this vintage, thankfully.
2018 has so far brought with it a long and cold winter for much of Europe, which lasted until the end of March. This led to a delay in the growing process of the vines, a rather good thing for winemakers nervous of spring frosts. Last year, by contrast, we saw the vines run ahead of schedule, bursting their buds at a time where you still faced such frosts across Burgundy. The last two weeks of April, this year, have been warm enough to encourage the growing process to begin, and so we are beginning to see the makings of the 2018 vintage emerge.
But we are not out of danger yet, as this is arguably one of the most crucial times for winegrowers. As the fragile buds begin to burst, many across Burgundy will still be fearful of “Les Saints de Glace” (The Ice Saints). The saints are comprised of St Servais, St Pancrace and St Mamert, who hold feast days on the 11th, 12th and 13th of May respectively. Their bold nickname across Europe has derived from the tendency for a sharp drop in temperatures over these dates, reverting to winter and risking the destruction of the newly budding vines. The Franciscan monk Rabelais aptly referred to the trio as “Hailing, freezing and bud-spoiling monks!”
According to the forecasts, we should be safe from frosts, but the superstitions and traditions in Burgundy mean that few winemakers will be truly relaxed until ‘The Ice Saints” have passed!
– Paul Miller