Here in the Finger Lakes, it has been COLD! With some temps clocked as low as -11 in Geneva, NY, it is important to remember several things when it comes to cold temps in this region:
1) Site specificity is extremely important, as is the location of the vineyard and its proximity to the lake. Clearly, this is most important for locations on Seneca and Cayuga lake, where the water has not frozen.
2) Riesling and Cabernet Franc, two key Finger Lakes varietals, are hardy down to -14 degrees. This is comforting considering there are some sites that have seen temperatures close to this.
3) The cold is occurring later in the year in 2015, as compared with 2014, when the cold temperatures sparked a flurry of worry and state and federal intervention. There is cause for hope that these low temperatures have happened as the vines are entirely dormant and hardened off - providing some glimmer of hope that bud damage will not be too bad and that we will see a full harvest in 2015.
There are causes for concern however, and growers and wineries should consider the contractual arrangements they currently have. Arctic cold temperatures are a foreseeable issue in the Finger Lakes, and both wineries and growers can benefit from considering in advance how they will navigate their relationship should there be serious vineyard damage.
"I agree that I have made a contract with you on the condition that I guard your property, a vineyard near the village Panoouei, from the present day until vintage and transport, so that there be no negligence, and on the condition that I receive in return for pay for all of the aforementioned time." See Here.
This sentence, discovered on a small piece of papyrus and translated by a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, provided modern day wine enthusiasts with a sneak peak into the conditions of vineyards and the wine industry in the fourth century. Apparently, theft was a major issue for vineyard owners, so much so that contracted security appears to have been a necessity in order to keep the harvest safe and the growers compensated.
Although there may be some issues with grape theft today, largely the contractual issues we examine are between grape growers and wineries. Unlike much of Europe, the United States has a situation where winemaking and grape-growing, although integrally connected, are not often managed by the same businesses and people. Proper grape purchase contracts, contracts that contemplate the problems that both growers and winemakers may encounter, are extremely important. It is not necessarily about making the business more complicated, but rather making sure that relationships stay in tact and ensuring that both parties are fully aware of each others' expectations.
Without modern day grape grower/winery contracts, we'd probably see a lot more business for winery security teams, and contracts of a different sort.