Introduction to Wine, part III: Seasons of the vine

In the second instalment of “Introduction to Wine,” I explained some of the flavour components of wines, and the terminology that is generally used to describe those flavours (as well as some of the corresponding aromas). In this chapter, though, I’m going to cover a very important non-drinking-related aspect of wine–the seasons of the vine. Within viticulture, there are generally accepted periods throughout the year that mark special occasions with respect to the processes of growing and winemaking. I’ve briefly outlined the key periods in the table below:

Process Time Explanation
Dormancy December – April No prominent activity for the vines.
Weeping Late March – early April The canes are pruned. The sap is underground at this point, but moves up into the pruned places.
Bud burst Late April / early May This stage is where the buds form on the stem, and from them shoots appear. This happens when the temperature reaches ~10°C (~50°F).
Flowering May / June About 50-80 days after the bud burst (or when temperatures are 15-20°C [~60-68°F]), the flowers appear, and they tend to look like little bulbs or buttons.
Fruit set July The berries, which are hard and very tart early representations of the grapes, appear for the first time.
Veraison August About 50 days or so after fruit set, the berries start to ripen and change colour. The vines are not irrigated after this point as that process would generally dilute the flavour.
Harvest September – October Harvesting times vary based on varietal, temperatures, and many other viticultural decisions, but is generally around 90 days after flowering.

There is certainly a lot of detail that was left out of that chart, but hopefully it provides an introductory understanding of the seasons as they pertain to winemaking. It is important to remember that those seasonal estimates are based in the northern hemisphere; for vineyards in the southern hemisphere, the periods are flipped.

Next time, we will cover the topics of reading wine labels and storing your wines.


1 comment

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    • Becky on Friday, 20 July 2012 at 12:46
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    An intelligent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

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