Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Lifecycle of a Vineyard

The Cycle of the Vine

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? A common joke that plays well against the struggle for life of a common (or uncommon) vineyard. Which came first, the vineyard or the grape? Whether it be Castilla-La Mancha or the Napa Valley, we inevitably find that life in a vineyard begins when the grape leaves the nest in Autumn, followed by the vines slumber in Winter and returning to the growth and development of new life in Spring & Summer.

Autumn; the time to return to school & return to work. Never was that more true then in the vineyard, where our ripened grapes have left the vineyard for their long journey to your table (in bottle form). Now begins the real work of the viticulturist! These vines tend to be cleaned so that only the best six to twelve bunches of grapes will grow on this vine... the roots need to have soil and manure (fertilizer) blanketing them against the deadly frost to come. Some stakes and wires may even need to be re-jigged so that with the coming Spring, all will be able to grow to their maximum potential.

Winter; the land has been cleared of all clutter and debris from the madness that is harvest. The viticulturist has perhaps even been able to sleep fully for a week or two. Back to work ye intrepid souls! Winter is the time for pruning, pruning and more pruning. Whether it be to prepare for the vine-training of Guyot, Double-Guyot or Cordon du Royat this task will help control and regulate the production and quality of the vines. Some vines, sadly, will need to be ripped out as they may be too old, or damaged, but in a few years the land will be ready to have a new vine grow in its place.

Spring; the sap will begin to rise through the vines as gentle breezes bring warmth to vineyard and its workers. Buds will begin to appear throughout, and tiny shoots, and if we are in a colder climate, the viticulturist will have timed his pruning until late in the year (Winter) so as to delay this budding. A morning frost, common in colder climates, would easily damage these fragile beginnings. By mid-Spring these shoots will metamorph to flowers, and as soon as they are fertalized with pollen, will then turn to berries (known as berry-set).

Summer; we reach the Herbaceous period when the tiny grape is bright green, hard like a nut, and quite acidic. Great things will happen to these little berries as the sunlight hours increase and the contrasting day heat and night cool work their magic powers... Veraison has begun as the berries will soften and turn color, sugar will increase and acid will decrease. The winemaker and the viticulturist will watch avidly, taking many sugar readings with their refractometres. There has been too much work now, to let the grapes linger until the Overmaturing period... it is time to pick the fruit.

And so returns the viticulturist to the madness that is the harvest. They will try not too think too much about the upcoming labors... but will always have a corner of their minds open to what rows need the most cleaning, what vines will need to be torn out in the upcoming months. Back to work! This is harvest, and the grape must finally leave the nest.

No comments:

Post a Comment