Lonely Planet Writer

Discover why Italian winemakers lined their vineyards with hundreds of flaming torches

Located in Valle Isarco near Bressanone in South Tyrol, Italy is Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella, an Augustinian monastery that dates back to 1142.

The winery laid out 800 torches to help save the crops.Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella at night illuminated by 800 torches
The winery laid out 800 torches to help save the crops. Image by Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella

Here, visitors can take guided tours of the historical buildings, stroll through beautiful, stately gardens and even take a look at the onsite wine estate. This month, stunning images were shared online that depicted the vineyards illuminated by hundreds of flaming torches at night, causing many people to wonder why. It turns out it wasn’t just for aesthetics, the lights helped save the crops during unseasonably extreme weather.

“The art of winemaking is always relative to the seasonal changes. Because of that, we constantly observe the weather conditions, especially regarding temperatures in springtime. The forecast predicted low and very unusual temperatures for the night of the May 7, but thanks to our experience we were prepared for the frosty night. Vines can’t resist temperatures lower than -2 degree Celsius, so by placing 800 torches in the vineyard, the temperature was raised by 3 degrees Celsius,” Sandra Rafreider of Abbazia di Novacella told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella
According to the winery, the unseasonably cold weather is a relatively rare occurrence. Image by Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella

The torches did the trick, with the grapes surviving the cold night. According to Sandra, it is a somewhat rare occurrence. The last time the torches were needed was in April 2017 during an extremely cold night that saw a significant part of the harvest being destroyed. The winemakers must by ready to act quickly and choose their times wisely, as the candles only burn for 8 – 10 hours at a time.

Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella
The images circulated online after being shared on social media. Image by Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella

While the crops were saved, another benefit of the torches was the reaction that it caused around the world when the stunning images were shared. “We couldn’t believe the reactions on social media. People wished us good luck and were concerned about the harvest, others were surprised and amazing by the beautiful scenery it created. It was basically a beautiful catastrophe!” Sandra said.

The Stiftskellerei Neustift – Abbazia di Novacella is among the oldest active wineries in the world. Today, white wines are produced from eight grape varieties, and the red wines come from the monastery’s own vineyards in Bolzano and Girlan.

More information is available at the official website.