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WINE WORRIES: Frost Could Kill Grape Crops

Tuesday night’s frosty forecast is making wine makers in all of Iowa’s 99 wineries a little nervous. Just a few hours of freezing weather could wipe out this year’s harvest.

When wine makers heard the forecast, a chill went down their spine. The problem is that with all the warm weather we’ve had, the vines are a month ahead of schedule. There are already baby grapes at Jasper Winery that are too sensitive to survive a freeze.

“Normally they don’t start budding until the middle of April when the last frost has passed. There have been late frosts that were not that damaging so this is a different year,” says Ron Mark of Summerset Winery.

Mark has been growing grapes for the past 23 years. He says if the temperatures dip below 30 degrees for a few hours, he could lose all of his grapes and 70% of his crop for the year. Grapes bud three times during the season, but the first round is the best and biggest, so Iowa wineries say they would be devastated if they lose the grapes. Jasper winery says they won’t be able to make as many bottles of wine, and that means a much smaller profit. There’s little to nothing vineyards can do to protect the grapes. Many are turning to humor to make up for the helplessness they’re feeling.

“If you all want to come out and start bonfires tonight we’ll have a big party out there and I’ll provide the wine! Actually, there’s not too much we can do,” says Jean Groben of Jasper Winery.

Mark says he usually produces about 40,000 bottles of wine each year. He says if the grapes freeze, he’ll try and buy the same grapes from other wineries, however if other parts of the country get frost as well, the prices could skyrocket and the demand increase.

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