By Aillinn Brennan • Special to The Current
The most anticipated event in springtime is bud break! As the vineyard wakes from its winter rest, dormant woody buds morph into pretty pinkish green pods, which unfurl into fresh spring leaves and shoots. Tendrils begin to grow off the shoots between the leaves to form tiny clusters of flowers.
Most grape varieties are self-pollinating and when pollination occurs each tiny flower becomes a tiny green grape. These baby grape bunches, or clusters, contain small amounts of sugar and lots of acid. By harvest this sugar and acid will be balanced and optimal for making quality wine.
In springtime, weather is always a concern especially at pollination where harsh weather can impede the delicate process. When pollination is complete and the clusters are in place on the vine its called fruit set.
Throughout the growing season great care and attention will be given to the fruit set and to the canopy growing above them. The canopy is the lush green growth that makes for the beautiful rows we see in the “vineyard in summertime” postcards.
There is always LOTS of work to do in the vineyard. Once established, grapevines will grow very aggressively. In ancient times, some Romans let their vines grow wild, way up their Elm and Poplar trees. If left to their own devices grapevines will grow wild. To get the best fruit and optimal yield they have to be managed.
This is where pruning comes in and it’s complicated! From a distance it looks dreamy, you see people quietly going up and down the beautiful serene rows, snipping here-and-there on a pleasant spring day. Up close it is intensely purposeful and very hard work. An important springtime pruning task is shoot thinning. The main goal is to control the canopy which will become very dense and difficult to prune later in the season. The grower must decide what shoots are needed and what shoots are not.
A simple example is pruning for shoots that have no fruit set. Another task in springtime is cluster thinning. In this case the grower may elect to remove clusters to prevent over cropping. If he vine over produces bunches of grapes, it will not be able to bring the fruit to its necessary ripeness for quality wine production.
The rest of the seasons will be busy too! When summer sunshine arrives there is veraison, when the clusters turn colors. The Merlot will turn into beautiful deep purple and the Vidal Blanc will take on a beautiful golden glow. Throughout the growing season the canopy will need to be maintained for optimal photosynthesis to ripen the crop. Harvest, the grand finale is removing tons and tons and tons of that precious pampered fruit and winemaking begins.
And then….more pruning, pruning and pruning! So, spring into the vineyard to sip, sip, sip and see what’s up!
Aillinn Brennan is proprietor of The Marion Hose Bar located at 16 W. Broadway in Jim Thorpe.
For more visit www.marionhosebar.com