Archive for January, 2016

26
Jan
16

Hibernating Grapes

Terroir, those elements of nature including sunshine, wind, soil, rainfall, etc. are factors that impact on grapes. It’s easy for even the untrained eye to be aware of what’s happening in a vineyard once spring renews the cycle of growth and life flows back into the vines. Through spring, summer and fall, there are noticeable changes from bud break to the development of tiny grapes. Summer brings full fruition when clusters of grapes hang heavy on the vines ready for eager hands to gather them. Fall passes and harvest is over. Leaves that provide glorious colors of yellow, orange and red in the autumn become dry and brittle, scattered on the ground by the wind. Vineyard workers look forward to a well-deserved rest from the months of intense work it requires to ensure grapes will produce a good harvest.

Work in a winery is a year-round occupation. Life goes on inside the winery during winter. Checking on fermentation, aging in oak barrels, and multiple tasks take place indoors. We tend to think that life stops in the vineyard when temperatures drop.  But during winter the vineyard is quietly taking care of tasks necessitated by colder weather. It is a time when vines hibernate, storing up energy for the coming season. Trained eyes understand the subtle changes winter imposes on the vineyard. Wood hardens on the vines protecting them from inclement weather. Vines gather and store carbohydrates for the future. Falling temperatures convert sugars to starch. The period of winter dormancy prepares them for the cycle of growth that begins once spring wakens the earth. Once again vintners and vineyard managers watch and wait for signs of burgeoning life when cover crops slowly emerge signaling hibernation is over and the cycle of regeneration is about to begin.