VITICULTURE A year in the vineyard (Northern Hemisphere) Harvest – September through October Before the grapes are harvested, they are checked for proper sugar, acid and pH levels. Testing the grapes for physiological ripeness and flavor may require several trials, some clinical and others based on our perception of whether or not certain flavor characteristics have developed fully. Sugar readings are taken from each block and each row on a daily basis. Ripe grapes will have grape seeds with a brownish color and the pectin sac around them releases.
VITICULTURE A year in the vineyard (Northern Hemisphere) Harvest – September through October Picking crews and mechanical harvesters are used for harvesting, but for the most part the smaller vineyards or sloped vineyards are hand-picked. Wineries may share harvesters to cut down on costs. It is highly desirable to pick the grapes early in the morning to avoid excessive heat which continues to affect the grapes even after they are picked. Some vineyards in hotter climates may be harvested at night.
HARVEST – SEPTEMBER THROUGH OCTOBER – CONTINUED The grapes are taken to the winery as quickly as possible to avoid any undesirable oxidation of the grape juice that can occur once it has been exposed to the air. Sulfur may be spread on the grapes before crushing to retard oxidation. It may take several trips into the vineyards to pick from the same rows because some grapes ripen unevenly. A late-harvested or an ice wine may be desired which could lead to harvesting into the next year!
Vineyard Preparation – October through November Once grapes have been picked and taken to the winery, the vineyard is fertilized. This can be done with commercial mixtures and/or natural enrichment (compost, manure or with the pomace which is from skins, seeds and stems leftover from the crushing and pressing). The leaves turn brown and fall off. The vines become dormant. The sap is concentrated in the lower section of the plant for protection from the cold. Soil may even be hilled up around the plant or graft to provide additional protection from severe and extended low temperatures.
Vineyard Care and Pruning – December through January Topsoil may have eroded during the year (common in hilly regions like Burgundy, France) and need to be replaced. Grapevines are hand-pruned to help control the yield and quality of the coming year's grape harvest. The vineyard crew carefully selects the canes on each vine that are best suited to bear grapes for the next vintage. If not pruned back, the number of buds that would bloom and turn into fruit would be of lower quality.
Vineyard Preparation – February and March Most outdoor work is finished before the severe cold hits. Winery work can focus on machinery maintenance, grafting vines onto rootstock and checking the progress of wines. Hopefully starting in March, plowing and aeration of the soil can begin. Grapevines begin to come out of their dormant stage and the sap in the roots begins to flow. Hilled up soil can be removed.
Frost Watch and Vineyard Care – April through May A threat of frost can last for the next two to three months. Wood cuttings left over from pruning are removed or burned in the vineyard. Year-old cuttings can now be planted. The first buds start to open as leaves begin to develop. The soil is worked again and weeds are removed. A prolonged period of cold weather or frost can damage the vines and affect the crop, so safeguards (heating pots, wind machines and overhead watering) need to be in place. Vineyards near bodies of water can help moderate temperatures and prevent damage in the vineyards.
The Flowering – June Growers hope for warmer weather to assist in this critical stage. Delicate and tiny, grape flowers can be easily dislodged by wind, rain or cold weather. If a good-sized storm hits the vineyard during the flowering period, much of the crop may be lost before the flowers self-pollinate, or "set", to form berries. Once fruit set has occurred, it is important to control the growth of the vine and begin thinking about managing the size of the crop. A trellising system can help with this and help the vines avoid pest, virus and fungus damage too. Traditionally, harvest starts approximately 100 days after flowering occurs.
Vineyard Care – July Vineyards are inspected daily to make sure corrections can be implemented quickly. Weeds compete with the grapevines for nutrients and water, so weeding may be necessary. A cover crop (mustard for example) between rows is different than weeds. Spraying may be necessary. The vines are again trimmed to encourage good grape production.
Véraison and Harvest Preparation – August through September Véraison is where grape growth stops, the color changes and the berry softens. This is the beginning of the ripening phase, so grapes at this stage are very tart. The high acid starts to convert to sugar. Too many leaves, grapes and rain at this point will affect the flavor and quality of the grapes. A green harvest where crop may be dropped to reduce yield may be used.
Véraison and Harvest Preparation – August through September Dry, sunny days are needed to insure a ripe and mature crop. Sugar, acidity and pH levels of the grapes are monitored. In preparation for harvest, winemaking and harvesting equipment is checked. Barrels and tanks will be prepared after the previous vintages’ wines are bottled. A harvesting plan identifies which grapes and sections of the vineyards will be picked first. Making sure the picking crew is available and properly instructed is also important.
GLASSWARE Glass material – leaded crystal, price Flow of wine into your mouth is affected by: Cut rim vs. rolled rim Shape – different grapes for different grapes; how it flows on to the different parts of the tongue Clear – no color on base, stem or bowl Stem – hold stem so glass doesn’t warm up or get dirty or add soap, perfume smells, etc. Cleaning – hand wash or “throw in” dishwasher Riedel – philosophy