Published: November 23rd 2010November 23rd 2010
Some friends asked me for a rundown of the yearly cycle in our mini vineyard, so I put together the following info about the cycle of life for our vines … Bleeding
The first signs of spring appear, temperatures creep up, sunlight begins to extend, slowly pushing back the long dark days of winter. Nature is waking itself, and the vineyards are waking from their sleep. The cycle of life begins anew when the daily average temperature starts to creep above 10 degrees Celsius the vines start to wake up from their winter slumber …. The cycle of life in my mini vineyard calls me to wake up also and pay attention to what is happening in the backyard ….
Spring brings first step in the vineyard known as “bleeding” or weeping. Bleeding starts when water begins to force itself up through the vines, and leak out from the pruning cuts made last autumn. During this period vines can bleed for about ten days up to five litres of water. In my mini vineyard this happens in about August or September. Bud Burst
About thirty days after bleeding begins, the next step begins – Bud Burst
begins. This is when the buds left from winter pruning begin to swell and produce a green shoot and the green foliage begins to appear. This is when I start to get excited and take mental notes about the progress of each individual vine.
Within no time there are embryonic bunches appearing on the small shoots, I try and resist the urge to name each small bunch like an expectant father may be tempted to do. My neighbours know the small bunches have arrived because they can sniff the blood and bone I have applied as fertiliser. The temptation exists to count your chickens before they hatch just now – the bunches are forming and one cannot help but count them to mentally assess how things may be come harvest time, but anything could happen – hail, strong winds, too much or too little rain, pests, birds, who knows … so keep you estimates to yourself just now is my advice. Flowering
November, flowering is underway. Lets hope the weather stays warm – November can be unpredictable … Lorenza and I still recall the year we got a snow dump at Cherry Tree Hill in November one
year on our way to Lue by motorcycle. We froze that year, so imagine what that could do to the flowering buds. We got sleet here in mid October this year, things can be very unpredictable.
During flowering some vineyards in Europe still resort to the old method of keeping tiny stoves, or smudge pots, burning in the vineyards to keep the ground free of a frost. Luckily, on our little mountain we never get frost (well not in the 18 years I have lived here). Fruit Set
Now, in mid November we experience what the French call “nouaison”, or Fruit Set. The French term always sounds so much more romantic. Not all flowers on the vines actually form fruit, but those that do make me fall in love with them now. Yep, I could almost be tempted to name each bunch of flowers that starts to set as fruit. These tiny little berries that are forming now make my heart go pitter patter. If I did name them they would bear the names of all the beautiful women of the world, so the bunches would be named Lorenza, Sofia, Marilyn, etc.
As summer progresses we
draw closer to véraison. The fruit are drawing nutrients in through the leaf canopy and the grapes begin to ripen and change colour. That is what is called véraison, yet another sexy French word! What a period of time it is in our mini vineyard … . Lorenza knows where to find me … down in the back garden talking to Sofia, Marilyn, Bridget, etc, as they take on colour and shape. The expectation is lit like a candle in my heart at this point … I have to remind myself to be more Buddhist in my approach and try not to expect too much so early on. Veraison
This is a French term that is now also used in English. At véraison, the green grapes start to gain colour, in the case of my vines they take on a gradual deep red. Also, at this point the skins begin to soften and the fruit gains in size. A chemical change also begins as malic acid is taken over by tartaric acid and the sugar levels begin to climb. Harvest
At harvest time our fingers are crossed for good weather. At this point heavy rain
can give the grapes too big a burst of water and damage the whole crop. As the crop ripens we test the sugar and Ph levels daily until we think it is the perfect time to pick. For the variety I have planted this usually happens in mid-April.
Early morning is the best picking time, when the grapes are still a bit cool and have not been basking all day in the sun. From that moment on the winemaking process takes over from the viticulture process. The day is now busy with de-stemming, crushing and processing the grapes into the primary fermentation tank. Dormancy
While the winemaking process continues the vines enter their winter dormancy. The vines are pruned and now rest until spring comes around again.
That is the cycle of life for the vines; it gives you a great connection to nature and the seasons, plus the added bonus of some nice bottles to share as well.
There are more photos below