The canes are pruned of the growth from the prior year. The vineyard may look dormant, the vines barren, but there is a lot happening in the grapevine. Nutrients are beginning to move up the gnarley, wooded trunk and soon there will be small buds growing in the warming sun. As they swell during the rising daytime temperatures it is a time of anticipation. The vine becomes ready to burst forth into a new growing season with all the promise and optimism of birth – the birth of a new vintage. And the moment that winegrowers eagerly anticipate is here – it’s called bud break.
Bud break is the beginning of the journey to the harvest, crush, fermentation, aging, bottling and the magic that is wine. And it all starts now.
I have visited vineyards in all of the seasons but there is something a bit more special when you see the new life on the vine emerging.
Once the buds break the new leaves begin to sprout pretty quickly. But it’s also a time of watchful caution. The new growth is vulnerable to changeable spring weather. Frost, or even too much warm spring rain, can interrupt or damage the vines and set the tone for the new growing season. From bud break to harvest it is typically 140 to 160 days, an average of five (5) months. It can be faster or slower due to the growing conditions in that particualr year, the wine region and the grape variety. Each grape variety is a bit different, but once the buds break the countdown begins. Last week Napa Valley growers reported the earliest bud break ever. Chardonnay led the way. In Sonoma it’s happening right now. There are many days and nights ahead before the fruit begins to pop out in little clusters that look like tiny green peas, before the berries begin to grow and fill with water and the sugars concentrate, before the grapes turn deep purple or transluscent green and hang heavy on the vine.
Here’s what will be happening over the next several months (in the wine growing regions of the Northern Hemisphere):
- Bud break
- Flowering – when the vines are fertilized by pollen and seeds created. GEEK ALERT: the vines are self pollinating and not reliant on the birds and bees.
- Fruit set – the beginnings of the grape clusters
- Veraison – the change in color of the grape berries
- Ripening – the maturation
The most oft-repeated saying in wine country is that “Great wine begins in the vineyard.”
More Sips are being born.
What will 2016 bring us?