The Marlborough region in New Zealand produces more than fifty percent of New Zealand’s finest wine. However, the cold climate means some innovative solutions are needed to combat grapes being damaged by frost as they grow in early spring. Enter the helicopter, flying low over vineyards to push warmer air from the inversion layer down onto the freezing ground and circulating the air. This has meant that more than 150 helicopters — a large portion New Zealand’s fleet — were in use over a small region at one time.
Brett from Nautilus wines explained that on average, the ‘choppers are called in for around three days a year to protect the crop. While helicopters might seem expensive, losing precious wine producing grapes can result in millions lost to frost.
The only alternative is to pick the grapes while frozen, producing wines known as ‘ice’ wines, which are very sweet as the water is frozen off, leaving a more concentrated flavour.