With Harvest season fast approaching, I think it’s only fitting to be a little curious about how wine grapes make it from vine to glass. We’ve already talked about the winemaking process, so we’re gettin’ somewhere— Let’s get into the life-cycle of grape vines, next. Again, this will only be a summary into the growing of wine grapes, but nevertheless, should still give you a pretty good idea of what happens.
Before we break it down by season, let me first mention that when a new vineyard is planted, substantial clusters of grapes growing on the vine may not happen for a few years. Row orientation, soil allocation, climate assessments, vine spacing, & varietal differences are only a few of the considerations when planting a new vineyard. It’s a battle of patience & test of experience when trying to start from the ground up, & even following that, it’s never an easy task. So, let’s learn what that means for those older vines.
Most of the foliage has been removed or died off at this point & the vine has gone into dormancy for the winter. Anything left on the vine is pruned (cut back for future growth). This is when the pruner chooses which canes (pictured above) will be used for this year’s growing season. With this factoring into the both the quality & quantity of fruit, it is a critical decision at this point in the life-cycle.
Bud break begins! This is when the buds (pictured above) begin to swell & open up. This is where potential shoots emerge (pictured above). Although an exciting time, it is all at once a very stressful one for vintners (someone who grows wine grapes, produces, or sells wine), too. The buds are very delicate at this time, making any drastic change in weather catastrophic to the potential for harvest. However, if the buds do survive, they begin to create shoots & flowers. Fun fact: These flowers can actually pollinate themselves without any help from bees! How cool is that?
Grape clusters are formed! Each fertilized flower turns into a grape. This is also a time very crucial to the wine grape’s fate. Weeding, summer pruning, fertilizing, pest control/spraying & several other factors all play a role in this season of growing. Then, every year around the time we’re in right now, veraison occurs. This is when the wine grapes begin to show their color & the varietal characteristics really begin to develop. Prior to this process, grapes are still sour & immature. This causes them to plump up & sugar levels to start rising.
Harvest begins! At the discretion of the winemakers, some grape varieties are harvested before the “fall” season, but this is really the sweet spot for this step in the vine’s life-cycle. White grapes are often harvested before red grapes. This is due to the acidity levels decreasing & sugar levels rising, with time. We know now that acidity brings crispness, & especially here at Wiens, we love our “Crisp Whites!” However, this again is completely up to the winemakers’ plans for future wines, so there really is no recipe for the sequence. Fun fact: We hand-pick all of our grapes to maintain their various characteristics later present in the wine! Sometimes, wine grapes are kept on the vine until later in the season & used for a sweeter “late harvest” wine, like a dessert wine. Regardless, after all the grapes are harvested (sometimes taking up to three months with different varieties), the leaves change color & bring a beautiful glow to the vineyards. No more fruit, no more growth. Then, the leaves fall, dormancy occurs, & the cycle begins again.
Now, you have a very small insight into the cycle of a vine. In all honesty, I had the privilege of visiting each of our vineyards a couple weeks ago & I learned more in those two days than anything I could teach you in several of these blog posts. There are so many decisions to make, incidents to predict, & plot-twists to solve, in the case of growing wine grapes. It’s a really beautiful thing! I hope I at least gave you an appreciation for what it takes because our team works hard to give you the Wiens wine you keep coming back for!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop