Today you’re about to watch a brand-new episode of #Askwinebyalex and I want to cover something I think is really important to start learning about wine: the vine growth cycle! 🌱
Have you ever wondered how the vines grow each year? How they produce grapes that’ll become wine? 🍇
Well today, I’ll get you through the 7 stages of the vine growth cycle.
Each year the vine goes through the exact same cycle to produce grapes. Well it’s not always the exact same cycle… In fact, amounts of heat, sunlight, water and nutrients, which are the key resources of this cycle, are not the same every year. Therefore the vine growth cycle can vary yearly.
STAGE 1: DORMANCY
With temperatures too cold for the vine to grow, it enters dormancy in winter. It typically occurs between November and March in the northern hemisphere and between May and September in the southern hemisphere. Dormancy is the period during which vines use its carbohydrates stock to support itself and winter pruning is practiced. Temperatures can become very low in some areas, like Canada, and severely damaged or kill the vines.
STAGE 2: BUDBURST
Dormancy ends at budburst, typically in March-April in the northern hemisphere and September-October in the southern hemisphere. In spring, temperatures start to rise enabling buds to swell and open. Then shoots emerge from them. Budbreak occurs early or late according to the grape varieties as well, some need lower temperatures than others. The main risk during budburst is spring frost that can damage the buds when they’re open.
STAGE 3: SHOOT AND LEAF GROWTH
Between March and July in the northern hemisphere and September and January in the southern hemisphere, shoots continue to grow. Leaves and clusters of flowers, called inflorescences, develop. Vines use stored carbohydrates to do so. They also need warmth and sunlight so that photosynthesis can happen and leaves keep providing energy so the vines can keep on growing.
STAGE 4: FLOWERING AND FRUIT SET
Alongside shoot and leaf growth, flowering and fruit set happen in May-June in the northern hemisphere and November-December in the southern hemisphere. Around eight weeks after budburst, flowering is when individual flowers open within an inflorescence and pollen fertilises the egg through what’s called pollination. Pollination leads to the transformation of flowers into grapes, also called fruit set. During these stages, conditions need to be warm, dry and not windy so that everything happens.
STAGE 5: GRAPE DEVELOPMENT
After fruit set, grapes develop from June to October in the northern hemisphere and from December to April in the southern hemisphere. At the beginning, they are small, hard and green. They have low sugars, high acids and unripe aromas and tannins. They start to grow in size up until véraison, which triggers the ripening process. At véraison, grape skins become more soft and stretchy and grape colours change from green to golden for white varieties or red for black varieties. Once this is complete, ripening starts. It’s the most important process to determine final quality and style. A lot of things happen: grapes grow quickly due to water accumulation, sugars increase and acids decrease. It’s also the moment when aromas develop and tannins loose their bitterness.
STAGE 6: HARVEST
Harvest can take place when grapes reach the adequate ripeness to produce the wine style that the producer wants to make. Levels of sugars, which will become alcohol through vinification, and acids need to be balanced. Tannins and aromas need to be fully developed. Therefore the date of harvest is a crucial moment in the final style and quality of the resulting wine. You don’t wanna end up with a wine that’s not balanced to offer to their customers! That’s why producers analyse each component daily, to make sure they pick the grapes at the exact right time. Harvest used to happen in October but recently I saw producers in the South of France finishing harvest mid-august, which is crazy!
STAGE 7: LEAF FALL AND DORMANCY
After harvest is finished, leaves fall and the shoots become rigid and woody. Then the vines enter their dormant period again, until the next cycle in spring!
Well, that’s all for today! I hope this captivated you as much as me! Now you finally know how the vine growth cycle works!!
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
What impact do you think climate change has on this cycle? Do you have any example in mind that you want to share? ♨️
Leave a comment and let me know!
Thank you so much for watching this episode and I’ll see you soon on Wine.by.Alex! 😘
P.S.: Don’t forget to share the questions you ask yourself all the time. I’ll answer in the next videos each week! 😘
P.P.S.: If you’ve missed it, you can watch my first video about the 8 types of wine producers that you NEED to know. Just click here!