Burning hay in the Tuscan hills

Sometimes old methods are the best for Tuscan vineyards! Having enjoyed unexpected warm weather late March to Easter, warm enough to garden in shorts or laze on a lounge in bikini, we were hit by sudden change and bitter frost. A blanket of white and out came the woollen clothing yet again.

Photo credit Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino

photo credit Consortium Brunello wine Montalcino

The Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium was not to be beat and brought out the hay bales, dampened them down and set them alight in the vineyards. An old remedy to warm up the air as temperatures dropped to -9º. As Tommaso Cortonesi, director of the Brunello wine consortium explained “ the straw does not generate fire but smoke that remains low to the ground and thus allows the air to be heated. In addition, the straw burns slowly and we decided to wet it on top in order to produce more smoke and  a slower fire”.

Tuscan vineyards burning hay against unseasonal cold temperatures

Photo credit Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium

An ancient technique of conservation and care of the vines handed down from generation to generation and used not only in Montalcino but in some Chianti areas as well. It is still to be seen if it was enough to save the vines which had sprouted early, like so many plants and fruit trees conned into thinking the Winter had passed and Spring was in the air.

Montalcino vineyards burning hay against frost

Photo credit Brunello Wine Consortium Montalcino

Unfortunately I was slow to think it would create any damage to my plants and failed miserably as I discovered my wisteria flower buds burnt to a crisp and looking very sad indeed. My neighbor also saddened to see his geranium plants which were already in flower devastated while mine had hardly even started to enjoy being outside.

You live and learn, and I will have to cut back my wisteria and wait till next year to see any blooms if the frost hasn’t knocked out the plant totally. To cheer me up after 20 years of geranium window boxes I will be off to the nursery for new flowering plants next week when these cold mornings have passed.

In the meantime the swallows have returned to their nests which is always a reassuring sign,

solaria - Montalcino winery

cellar at Solaria vineyard Montalcino


and we do hope the  Tuscan vineyards are safe so you can still enjoy a drop of Brunello or Chianti in the years to come.






2 thoughts on “Burning hay in the Tuscan hills

  1. Sue in Australia we have read of smoke from bushfires affecting grapes on the vines. Ruined the flavour and aroma for that vintage. I hope your local brews escape the unwanted smokey flavours!

    • I can understand that Beth. But since the vines had only just started to sprout I don’t think it will affect the flavour and am sure the Wine Consortium are experts on that.

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