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WINEMAKING STARTS IN THE VINEYARD



      The vines have a regular growing cycle. Depending on the local climate, first awakening of the vines starts in early or late spring with the budbreak. The shoots grow along with the formation of the leaves and bunches (called inflorescences). The grape's flowers are neither distinctive nor particularly attractive, however they develop a strong, sweet scent when flowering, that has been described as aphrodisiac by the Greeks and Romans!


      The flowering corresponds to the separation of the cap (the fused flower petals) from each flower, liberating the pollen sacs which can then fertilize the ovary. This period is important to determine the vine's yield. Poor fertilization provoked by bad weather (called coulure) reduced the vine production and can be an important problem depending on the grape variety. The seeds are created during the fertilization and are followed by fruit set. Young berries start their life with a high acid content and low sugar level. The size of the berry and its sugar content increase, particularly after the veraison which consists of the berry's color change (From green to red or yellow depending on the varietal).




A worker pruning a Cabernet Sauvignon vine


The cane-pruned vine


      From the veraison on, the berry will accumulate sugars, phenolics, and aromatic components until it is ready to be harvested. During this maturation period, the winegrower will encourage the sugar accumulation by controlling the berries and leaves sunlight exposure and limit the vegetation growth (which can be limited by a slight water stress).

      The harvest decision is primordial for the quality of the fruit and the style of the finished wine. If the grapes are harvested too early, the aromas will not have the time to develop. However, if the winemaker waits to long, the resulting wine will be too high in alcohol and characterized with overipe flavors and sometimes high volatile acidity. The vine variety is also an important factor in the harvest decision, some vine being early maturing and others late maturing.


      After the harvest and with the begining of winter, the vines is starting its dormancy period, which will last until the beginning of next year spring. This period is important for vineyard workers since it give them the opportunity to prepare the vines for the new growing season. It is during this time that they perform winter pruning, which consists in cuttings back 80% to 90% of the vegetation from last growing season, and helps controlling the vine's future yield.


Grape ripening on the vine


      One of the most important transformation of the viticultural world is the emphasis on environmental friendly viticulture. This new way of taking care of the vineyard can take numerous faces: from sustainability techniques to bio-dynamic viticulture. The common point between these different philosophies is the desire to maintain healthy vineyard soils.


      A better scientific knowledge of the necessary conditions involved in growing healthy and concentrated berries and a renewed interest for the millenary tradition of a viticulture respectful of the local and global environment constitute the new paradigm of modern viticulture.


 

A vineyard cultivate with a permanent cover crop.