Island vineyards OK after record-breaking heat wave

The recent, record-setting heat wave on Vancouver Island had winemakers and distillers paying careful attention to their grape crops – with a trio reporting no major negative effects.

In the Cowichan Valley, Enrico Winery says it was their staff who were most unhappy trying to avoid the heat under scorching temperatures that reached 42 degrees Celsius one day.

“Nowhere in the vineyard did we have so much leaf burn that the vines can’t recover,” says winemaker Daniel Cosman.

In fact, the winery says a cooler start to the season had put them behind and the heatwave caught them up.

“So now we’re even with an average year, if not a little bit better,” says Cosman.

While the heat hasn’t been an issue for the winery, dryness has. Enrico is experiencing “end-of-August water deficits” meaning its irrigation system is working full blast.

“We have no choice,” Cosman says.

Over on the Saanich Peninsula, Church and State Wines is growing grapes for three bubbly wines. While the plants are relatively resistant to heat, the head winemaker says cooler temperatures ranging from the 20s to 30s C are best.

“If you go too far on the heat, the acidity of the berries will go down and for us, for the sparkling, (that) is not a good thing,” says head winemaker Arnaud Thierry.

So far, Church and State, too, is among the vineyards coming out of the heat wave without any major damage.

“We don’t have so much leaves dry or berries dry, so for the moment, no big damage, no big problem,” says Thierry.

Devine Distillery has stopped producing wine, instead shifting to using its vineyard for brandy. To keep its fruit trees happy, distillers have avoided too much pruning – leaving a canopy to protect the grapes.

That said, one of the property’s grain fields for other spirits like gin and whiskey is seeing stunted growth, which could affect production later this year.

“On the grain, I think we’ll probably see some impact on that in terms of a little less yield,” says Kevin Titcomb.

How much less remains to be seen and depends on the rest of the growing season: the summer.