Battling the May frosts with our new frost candles

Frost candles burning over dartmoor

We successfully lit over 360 frost candles to protect the vines from three long nights of sub-zero temperatures

After last years late May frosts we invested in 360 frost candles to cover the full vineyard in case we had a late visit from the cold again. On one hand, we really wanted to light the candles to see if they worked and to get to take some rather impressive late-night snaps but of course, we’d much rather jack frost stayed away. But early this may we saw budburst across half of the vineyard followed by a rather dooming forecast of frosty nights. This meant it was all hands on deck to get the candles set out across the bud burst sections ready to protect this year’s buds if the forecast proved right. Luckily until the buds on the vines burst they have a protective woolly layer to keep them safe from cold nights, so only half our crop was at risk from the cold night’s forecast.

Typically, the frost usually hits in the early hours, so we were aiming for an early night ready for a 3 am alert from the vineyards weather sensor when the sub-zero temperatures were imminent and it was time to light the candles.  But that alert came at 10 pm… meaning no sleep for us and a frantic rush to get to the vines and light the candles to hold the decreasing temperature above -1. By 11:30 the frost candles were lit across the sections and working to fight the cold already at -2. Brilliantly it worked, we had thermometers throughout the vines and we could see the temperature was held at 0 in the vines as the air temperature surrounding us continued to plummet. In the end, we spent most of the night below -3 and even reaching -4.5 but through lighting a few more candles when needed the vines stayed at a frost-free 0 degrees until sunrise. You’d think that would mean time for us to all have a snooze and catch up after a long night, but being a small family team it was straight in a cold shower, a few strong coffees and time to run our kitchen and bottle and gift shop. It’s safe to say that was probably the longest day we’ve had and it wasn’t over.

frost candles vines 1

We continued to battle the frost for 2 more nights but thankfully we managed to take shifts and all get at least a few hours sleep to keep us going in the days. The following nights still plummeted to below -3 and started to stretch how many hours of frost candles we had left to burn. By the final night, we only had 4hrs left and sadly we hit -2 by midnight. This meant we had to save the candles for the coldest hours between 3-6:30 am, leaving the vines exposed to -2 temperatures for 3 hours. With the remaining candles, we were able to successfully battle against the early morning drop to below -3 limiting any damage caused. But this meant we did see about 10% of damage to this year’s buds but it is a long way ahead of the 75% we could have had without any protection. 75% damage would of resulted in a loss of over £150,000 in bottles, so it’s safe to say the frost candles proved themselves and next year we will be getting well stocked up ready to battle with the cold!

Crop candle Co - frost candle

 

But what actually are frost candles?

Frost candles or bougies have been used for decades across the globe to protect vines from damaging frosts. The candles we used this year are from Crop Candle Co, a new UK based startup making eco-friendly candles from vegetable wax. The tins are also refillable, so from next year, we will be able to use the same base and slide in a new candle cartridge. Limiting waste and helping to make battling the frosts as eco friendly as we can. The candles work by burning at high temperatures, causing warming to the surrounding 5m of the candle and also helping with airflow to keep the frost moving and away from the vines.

frost candles - bud burst

As you can see above our Rondo buds are still looking happy and are continuing to open after the frosts hit. But having now used all of the frost candles at our disposal we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the long-range forecasts are true and we continue to have warmer weather through May.

Join us to go far beyond the bottle and learn about the other challenges of growing vines in Devon on our wine tasting & vineyard tour experience.

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Adam Birch

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Opening times

9-5pm wed-sun

Christmas opening times

10-4pm BANK HOLIDAYS

Welcome to the club!

We are so glad you decided to join us. We have just sent you an email to confirm your email address then you’ll be a fully-fledged member of our Vine Club.

Large table bookings

As a small team prided on serving freshly cooked plates we have a few restrictions when it comes to larger groups detailed below:

Please note a £10pp charge against a credit/debit card is required to book a table of 8+. No charge is taken unless you don’t show up on the day or cancel without 48hrs notice.

Tables 8-12 people – A pre-order (with allergy information) from our menus (click here) is required at least 1 week before your booking.

Tables 12-40 people – We can only serve our signature sharing platters for groups over 12. Please see our lunch menu (click here) to see our current platter range. A pre-order (with allergy information) is required at least 1 week before your booking.

Delivery costs

STANDARD (3-4 days*)

PREMIUM (1-2 days*)

*Please note days refers to our working days Tue-Sat. As we are closed every Monday. 

Sunset winemakers tour + supper evenings

Next: Sat 3rd August – The ultimate evening with us. Discover our story + learn all about English wine. Followed by our kitchens take on a traditional paella cooked overlooking Dartmoor.

Alcohol Awareness

We love wine here at Alder Vineyard but it’s useful to remember that wine is of course an alcoholic product. Whilst wine can be enjoyed in moderation, it is important to seek help and advice if you think you, or a loved one is drinking too much. 

You must be 18 or over to purchase wine and other alcoholic products. 

Our Kitchen is well stocked with drinks from across Devon and beyond and proudly includes several non-alcoholic options. This includes non-alcoholic beers, gin-alternatives, mocktails and of course, soft drinks. 

If you think you, or a loved one may need help and support due to alcohol misuse, please use the links below to find incredibly useful charities and resources that can help you. 

Sustainability Statement

We are proudly committed to protecting our environment and the planet in any way we possibly can. Our ethical and sustainable practices are at the heart of what we do here. 

What have we done so far?

  • Introduction of ‘wild areas’. The garden of the Kitchen includes our gorgeous wildflower area that is ever-changing and evolving. We have also set aside a huge area of land below the vineyard which has become our nature haven. We are allowing mother nature to repossess this area, surrounding a beautiful stream. Encouraging wildflowers and native species to thrive on our vineyard land. 
  • 100% of our power comes from renewable provider Octopus, powering the Kitchen, winery and shop. We also use energy-saving light bulbs and other techniques to reduce our uses wherever possible. 
  • We source products and ingredients from countless local suppliers, reducing food miles and supporting other local businesses. 
  • We send no waste to landfill. 100% of our waste is recycled, reused, composted or used to make energy via DCW 
  • We harness a natural spring on the farm to provide water for tasks such as washing vehicles, vineyard work, watering plants and flower beds. We only use mains water for use in the kitchen and winery. 
  • Our own products are bottled in lightweight glass and aluminium caps, meaning our bottles are created, transported and recycled with minimal energy use. 
  • Our entire range is packaged in plastic-free shipping boxes and is delivered to the customer by our courier, APC who use modern, aero-dynamic, fuel-efficient vehicles that are regularly maintained and serviced to reduce carbon emissions. 
  • We promote the use of plastic-free packaging to our suppliers.
  • We employ a wonderful team of local people. Where possible we encourage car sharing, travelling by bike or electric vehicle. 

 

What else do we aim to do in the future:

  • Our goal is to add solar panels and batteries to our building to remove or reduce the need for power to be brought in from elsewhere. 
  • Another mission is always reducing our requirement for the use of chemicals in the vineyard. We have always refused to use insecticides, however we would like to focus on reducing the use of other sprays wherever possible in the near future whilst making use of ever evolving organic alternatives. 
  • We will be partnering with other local companies who can make use of our harvest waste. For example, our red grape skins will be used to make ‘Grappa’ for the first time in 2023.

Accessibility information

This guide is designed to make your visit as fantastic as possible and to give you the opportunity to let us know where and when we can help you with specific needs. 

Our entire building is wheelchair friendly and we will always endeavour to cater for any specific need or requirement. 

If there is anything we can do that is not mentioned in this guide, please do let us know by emailing hello@aldervineyard.uk or calling 01566783409 ahead of your visit. 

 

Level Access:

  • Our entire building is on one level, meaning you can get around easily with a wheelchair. 
  • You can park directly in front of the building entrance, on a flat paved area. From here you can access the café, our unisex accessible toilets, outside terrace, and the winery. 
  • Please note: If you are joining us for a tour, this does involve a walk around the vineyard which is unfortunately not wheelchair friendly. Due to the terrain of the vineyard, a steep hill and lack of hard walkways this is not suitable for wheelchair users or those who struggle to walk. For more information, or to discuss joining a tour which can be adapted to be accessible please email tom@aldervineyard.uk. We will endeavour to adapt the tour to suit your individual needs where possible. 

 

Hearing:

  • Our café is a modern space designed for the very best social eating experiences. 
  • We have a fantastic, self-made, playlist of music to provide a relaxed atmosphere whilst not being imposing as you are eating. However we understand that might not be ideal for some. Each speaker in the ceiling is individually controlled and can be turned off to make a specific area quieter. Please just let us know when booking if you prefer a quiet space and we can choose a table more suited to this and turn the music off in that area. 
  • We have invested in large, padded photographs for the café walls which are actually sound buffering panels in disguise. This, along with our chair socks reduces the sound in the café as well. 
  • There are no speakers outside, however the outside area is not covered so we cant guarantee this will be suitable on wet/cold/windy days. 
  • All of our team are trained to be able to help you as much as we possibly can. 

 

Visual

  • Our café is designed around full height windows and have dark grey frames to make them stand out as much as possible.
  • The walls and doors have high colour contrast.
  • Our team would be more than happy to read the menu to you if you have vision problems as well as answer any questions you may have. 

 

General

  • We have a complimentary ticket system for personal assistants or carers. 
  • Our whole team has been trained to help in any way possible to ensure the best experience. 
  • We have an emergency evacuation protocol in place for disabled visitors. 

We have your Booking!

We will check our availability and be in touch soon to discuss your private group tour booking via email. 

We have your Booking!

We will check our availability and be in-touch soon to confirm your table via email.

We are Covid secure

Yours and our teams safety is our number 1 priority. We have made a number of changes in the vines to keep us all safe. This is under constant review and will be updated when the government advice changes.

safe travels

We have been verified by Visit England as ‘Good to go’

Social distancing

Please keep to a 2m distance when you visit. We have set all our tables at least 1.5m apart and do recommend face coverings in all indoor areas. Our team will still be wearing face covering when around you too.

Tables size limits

To continue to keep us safe in the vines we are keeping our tables limited to 10 people. We can accommodate larger groups but please get in touch to discuss any 10+ bookings with us.

Hand washing & cleaning

We have introduced a number of hand cleaning stations and guests are required to use hand sanatisor on entry. Our team are washing their hands between each customer and we are disinfecting all tables and chairs between use.

Payment

We are offering table service in the kitchen and advice using contactless or card payments where possible.

We have your Booking!

We will check our availability and be in-touch soon to confirm your table via email.

Booking for today?
Please call us on 01566 783 409 as we may not get to your email in time. 

We have your entry!

We’ve got our fingers crossed for you. We will send you an email to confirm your entry and we will be back in touch once the competition closes. Good luck!

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