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Last of the summer work in the vineyard ahead of the 2014 harvest


Following a very active spring in the vineyard with de-budding, the flowering of the vines, and raising the training wires, you might have thought that the hardest work has been done. However there are still a few tasks left to do in the beginning of summer before the grapes are left alone to slowly ripen. Trimming the vines, pinching out the shoots that grow in leaf joints, and removing some of the leaves may be necessary to obtain the best possible grapes come the harvest.

Once the vines have flowered, the grape berries will slowly grow until they reach full size, and will then ripen. To help them, the winemaker can choose to trim the vines to remove some of the branches to better manage the flow of sap, and to direct it towards the grape bunches. This also helps remove some of the young vegetation which is not yet able to help ripen the grapes via photosynthesis. Less foliage will also help the air circulate more freely around the grapes which help protect against disease, and also means that the organic treatments will be more effective. Trimming is done mechanically for the most part.

Trimming the leaves from the vines

With the same goal in mind, the shoots that sprout from between the leaf branches can also be removed. These will not produce any fruit and will compete for energy from the plant. It's done by hand and is a long and laborious process, so is not often undertaken.

More commonly some of the leaves are removed from the lower branches to improve air flow and to help the grapes get more sunlight and hence ripen more easily. It also helps the harvesters pick the grapes more easily and reduces the risk of rot. However this is not done in every region and depends on the weather, because if there is too much sun and hot weather, then the grapes need the protection of the leaves to stop them burning. Removing the leaves can be done manually or mechanically for trained vines by sucking up the leaves, blowing them off or burning them off thermally.

tilling the vineyard Rhone Valley France

At the same time, the vines continue to be treated as necessary and the weeding continues. With organic farming, weeding is done by tilling the soil between the vines. The organic treatments are contact treatments and stay on the outside of the plant, contrary to protecting the plant from within with chemical treatments. This means that if it rains, they get washed off, which can mean that the vines have to be treated more often than with conventional means.

Closer to the harvest, if the winemaker has the luxury of having too many grapes, s/he may decide to reduce the yield to improve the quality of the harvest. This is done by picking some of the bunches that are not yet mature. This is sometimes called a green harvest. Normally the winemaker has already tried to manage the quantity of grapes through pruning and de-budding.

There's usually some time available for the winemaker to take some well earned rest whilst waiting for the grapes to ripen. But the winemaker always has one eye on the sky hoping to avoid any thunder or hail storms.

More articles on working in the vineyard:

Pruning

De-budding and training the vines

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