BEHIND THE VINE
Behind The Vine with Viticulturist Sukhy Sran As I write, the 2010 harvest is finally winding down. After a wet winter, mild summer and relatively cool start to the harvest season, the grapes got exactly what they needed in early October with two extended warm spells that accelerated the ripening process. The growing season was a wild one this year, but in the end most of it came together and the fruit looked and tasted great.
Flowering and Fruit Set In the spring, little “flower” clusters appear on the young shoots. During the flowering stage, the small bud caps open up to begin the self-pollination process. Successful fertilization results in “fruit set,” whereby the flowers begin to form the seeds and berries. Inclement weather during this time can disrupt both fertilization and fruit set, resulting in a reduced crop size.
At the conclusion of each season, I like to take a little time off to recuperate from the long hours during harvest. But it’s never long before we need to begin preparing for the next growing season. The first step is pruning the vines in the winter, which sets them up for another growth cycle. Following pruning, the vines are transformed by the following three key phases beginning in the early spring:
Bud Break The growth cycle always begins with bud break, which is when the little buds on the pruned vine break open to reveal the new growth of the season. From these buds grow the shoots, or canes, that will produce leaves and, ultimately, fruit.
Veraison During their infancy, the grapes are green and hard and acidic. The actual ripening of the grapes begins in the summer. This initial ripening phase is called veraison, and it is evident in the changing color of the fruit from green to purple or golden, depending on the varietal. The timing of bud break, flowering and veraison are
dictated by the seasonal weather patterns, and can have a significant impact on the character of the vintage. But a lot can also happen during the final months after veraison, as we saw this year. In other words, the vintage’s script is never fully written until the grapes are off the vine.
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