THE LIFE CYCLE OF A GRAPEVINE IN 9 STEPS
You drink wine, you know how it is made. Really? Are you familiar with its main component, grapevine and berries? Here 9 steps of the life cycle of a grapevine. It can be useful to dazzle your relatives and to show your wine expert quality!
“Spring: a lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be”.
People that worked outside are always waiting for this day to come: Spring! For the winemaker, this time spell the end of winter. During rigorous and cold days, he took care of the vine, protect her and prune her to make it ready for Spring.
As soon as the first rays of sun appears, we can observe the sap rising again up to the vine’s branch.
2 / Budding
The first buds of the vine appear and foretell the season. They represent the first signs of life, quite a special moment! All along this time, the buds are very delicate and breakable. Winemakers fear weather changes and especially frost and hailstorm throughout this period. Indeed, it can simply destroy an entire crop. For example, Bourgogne region suffered from it during 2016 vintage: in some designations, 100% of buds were ravaged.
3/ Green shoots
Mother Nature continue its work (and so do the winemaker!) to let the first green shoots arise. They will little by little grow to shape leaves. These leaves represent vital organs of the vine. Do not forget that photosyntesis, biochemical reactions used by the plant to grow, is catch by the leaves! To make it clear, no photosynthesis = no wine (and that’s too bad let it happen).
Did you know that flowers of grapevines were considered perfect flowers? Actually, the blossoms pollinate themselves without the help of bees. In other words, the vitis vinifera varietals are hermaphroditic. This is a key step since the pollination will determine the growing of the grape berries.
5 / Berry growth
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
In the peak summer season, little clusters turn up. You can enjoy beautiful views over the vineyards. However, do you think that the winemaker twiddled his thumbs? Not at all! The work is quite intense. The winemaker will have to arrange a system of trellising (palissage). What is it exactly? it consists in fastening branches to iron wire to maintain an upright growth.
The word veraison comes from the French word –vérir- which means to ripen. Depending on where the grapes are grown, the veraison phase happens during summer! One the one hand, berries changed from green to pink and blue/red to black for dark grape varieties. On the other hand, grapes evolved from green to translucent or yellowish for white grape varieties. This step lasts from 8 to 15 days, sometimes more if the flowering phase was extended.
Like a good wine, grapes need to take time to offer all its personality and style. During this crucial moment, grapes increase in volume. The raisins keep mineral elements, amino acid and develop its tannins. Besides, sugar increased its concentration during this phase, which reduced proportion of acids. It should be noted that the concentration of acids is correlated with the climate. To give you an idea, the more the summer is cold, the more acids grapes will be.
“Leaves are falling, autumn is coming”
Here the Grail, the moment that the winemaker has been waiting for: the harvest! When he grapes are fully ripened, it’s time to collect it. Harvest mean both the action to pick grapes but also the time, the period when you are doing it. In France, the exact date of harvest is ruled by a prefectural decree (we don’t mess with wine!). Usually, we used to say that this period starts 100 days after flowering. However, several climate and viticultural factors may affect the time of maturity. The secret of a lot of winemakers? The plate instinct! In order not to make a mistake, nothing is better than the sharp senses of a professional.
8/ Late harvest
For some wines, the producer will wait a bit more to pick grapes: this is called late harvest (what a suspense!). Why does he wants to wait so long? To make wine, indeed! In any case, the winemaker is looking for a high sugar concentration to produced sweet or liquorous wines.
Furthermore, in some terroirs, berries are impacted by the botrytis cinerea. Behind this unique name, a microscopic fungus considered as “noble rot”. It causes an important drying up and gives a special flavor to berries. Sweet wines produced with this rot are usually exceptionals!
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the old of winter to give it sweetness?”
Colors change, leaves fall, sap goes down to the roots: it’s time for the vine to take some rest till next spring. During this period, the grapevine will live on its resources. On his part, the winemaker as a lot to do. Don’t forget that vine is a creeper and needs to be control. To do so, pruning is essential: if pruning isn’t done, grapevine will produce a lot of wood at the expense of berries. It is quite a fastidious work and 80% of vine shoots are eliminated.
Now that you know everything about the life cycle of a grapevine, what do you think about enjoying the view? From Loire Valley to Champagne, France is a unique land to explore, and you won’t be disappointed! Come and join us to observe vineyards and be astonished with Nature (while sipping good wines, of course).