It's too soon to know how extensive the damage is, says an article in the regional newspaper (La Nouvelle République), but a major freeze has affected many of the vineyards around Saint-Aignan and the town just across the river, Noyers-sur-Cher. Ground-level temperatures have plunged into the mid-20s in ºF over the past two or three mornings.
The smudge pots in the Renaudière vineyard just outside our back yard were lit again last night, for the third night in a row. According to our own outside thermometer, the temperature this morning is 6 to 8 ºF higher this morning than it was day before yesterday, but I took Callie out for a walk in the vineyard yesterday afternoon and I was surprised to see so much of the new, tender growth on the vines has been completely burned up — grillé — by freezing temperatures. Shriveled. Drooping.
That includes the leaves on our little fig tree, both in the far western end of our yard, near the garden shed. It has definitely been colder out there than closer to the house. I haven't had a good look at the cherry tree back there yet. I'll do that this morning, and take some photos. When the damage is so clearly visible to the naked eye, you can be sure that it's pretty bad. It takes a few days to measure accurately because the tender growth is still slowly dying. Ironically, it was so warm yesterday afternoon that I was out in shirtsleeves on my walk with Callie.
The NR newspaper article lists as hard-hit the vineyards around Cheverny, Oisly, Châtillon-sur-Cher, Saint-Romain, and Noyers, on the north side of the Cher river, but also Saint-Georges on the south bank about 10 miles west of Saint-Aignan. It doesn't mention Saint-Aignan and Mareuil-sur-Cher specifically, but I can attest to the fact that the damage is disheartening. I'm glad I don't depend on agriculture — that's what grape-growing is, after all — for my living.
Over in Montlouis, the television news reported, grape-growers have hired helicopters and pilots to fly low over their vineyards to stir up the air and keep the cold from settling at ground level. Drastic measures are called for. Montlouis makes some of the best white wines in the Loire Valley, along with Vouvray. The Touraine-Amboise vineyards have also suffered major damage from the extreme cold, according to a separate article in the paper.
I also want to go see that long patch of orchids again too. I took the photos here 48 hours ago, before the effects of the freeze were visible.