Ah, springtime! The cold, dark days of winter give way to earlier sunrises, warming breezes, and the first signs of life returning to the vineyards. The tantalizing promise of another amazing vintage is everywhere!
After a long winter, with a winemaker’s days filled with managing last fall’s harvest through the laborious steps from crush to bottling, springtime means that activity once again turns outdoors. The bare stems of the grapevines push out gossamer green shoots that grow with amazing speed. Soon, these shoots require pruning, thinning the growth (sometimes called suckering), to shape the new growth and provide just the right amount of vine for grape bunches and leaves for shade and photosynthesis.
Soon, the vines begin to flower. This is a crucial time for the vineyard, as pollination begins the flowers’ journey toward fruit. During pollination, the flowers are susceptible to damage from both frost and rain. This is not a time when winemakers sleep soundly! If all is well, tiny clusters will begin to form along the vines. These tiny pips will mature over the summer into plump spheres, full of delicious grape juice.
Once the initial vine growth is achieved, vineyard workers begin to pull off some of the leaves. With too many leaves, precious plant energy is wasted on nourishing the leaves and too much shade is cast on the grapes below. Too few leaves means that the shade so critical for slow grape maturation is lost. The final pruning is called topping or hedging, when the grapevines are cut back to create a consistent height and width for easier tending throughout the summer.
All this activity in the vineyards is focused on one simple goal: producing the best possible grape harvest. Good luck to everyone tending their vineyards, we can’t wait to taste the fruits of your labors!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?