Finally, we have reached the end of the winemaking year.
In the vineyard, soil health is a common topic of discussion now that the vines are dormant. This is a great time to dig soil pits and send samples off to discover more about the composition of the soil layers around the root system of the vines.
Soil pH plays a large part in the health of a vineyard as it controls nutrient uptake. Even if the soil contains plenty of a particular nutrient, if soil pH is wrong, that nutrient might not be available in a form that the plant can use. This can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities. For this reason, it is very important to manage the soil pH.
At the start of November, areas with long growing seasons are still wrapping up harvest, but most wineries in the northern hemisphere have brought their grapes into the winery. An exception to this rule is any fruit being left out for ice wine production.
Ice Wine Production
Grapes destined for ice wine production must hang on the vine until temperatures reach a consistent 20°F/-7°C or below. Only at this point, can the frozen berries be harvested.
November begins with a lot of activity in the winery and ends with everyone taking a collective sigh of relief. The growing season is at an end and most wine production professionals can take a moment to reconnect with their families and friends and take a well-deserved vacation.
In October, most areas of the northern hemisphere are in harvest and going full out!
Many white varieties finish in early October. Although some reds (particularly early-ripening Pinot Noir) may have started harvest in September, generally, October is the month when most red varieties are picked.
In September’s post, we explored the harvest parameters for white grapes. The factors that a winemaker considers when picking red grapes are similar… flavor, acid, sugar, etc. However, there are two key harvest parameters that are more important (and impactful) for reds than whites: tannin ripeness and anthocyanin accumulation (color).
Thirty years ago, Nicolás Catena pioneered high altitude viticulture in Argentina. While searching for elegance and concentration, the Catena family found a strategy that today can be used for combatting climate change: "go higher". Malbec, Argentina’s leading red varietal was in decline and being pulled out. Today, high altitude Malbec has led to the rebirth of Argentine wine on the world stage. Ungrafted vines and ancient pre-phylloxeric vine selections have something to do with this wine revolution. Join us to learn about how the Catena Institute of Wine uses science to preserve the culture and nature behind wine.
Dr. Laura Catena is a Harvard and Stanford trained biologist and physician, founder of the Catena Institute of Wine in Argentina, and managing director of Bodega Catena Zapata (Est. 1902). Since 1995, the Catena Institute has helped to elevate the Malbec varietal and Argentine wine as a whole. Under Laura’s leadership, Bodega Catena Zapata has earned six 100-point wine ratings and was voted most awarded world winery by VIVINO WINE STYLE AWARDS. Laura is author of three books, “Vino Argentino,” “Gold in the Vineyards” and the upcoming “Malbec mon amour.” She lives with her husband and three children between Mendoza, Argentina, and San Francisco, California, where she volunteers as a street physician with the Department of Public Health.
Now that fall has arrived, winemakers turn their attention to the harvest. In most of the northern hemisphere, harvest usually begins by the middle of this month, if not earlier. It is an exciting time. The culmination of all the hard work in the vineyards is realized in the moments the grapes are picked. Vineyard managers can relax now, but the winemaker’s job is just getting started.
August is the calm before the harvest storm. Vegetative growth has slowed considerably and, in some climates, stopped completely due to water stress. The vine now turns its efforts to ripening the fruit that it has developed earlier in the season. Although the berries are close to their final size, the skins will begin to thin, change color, and gain considerably more weight as they fill with sugar produced by the leaves. In climates that experience rain during this period, splitting becomes a risk.
By July, the period of rapid shoot growth is over. The vine has now created all the leaves needed to ripen its fruit. In wet climates, shoot growth may continue but at a much slower pace. In dry climates, shoot growth stops completely. In very dry areas, the tendrils on the shoot can even dry out completely!
THE GRAFTED GRAPEVINE (a three-part series)
We are thrilled to present you a three-part viticultural series that will take a deep dive into the grafted grapevine. Thomas Dormegnies, of the highly respected Bérillon Nursery in France, will share his expertise and experience to help you discover how grafted grapevines are produced, the impact of high-quality vine plant material on viticulture, how diversity and sustainability in the vineyard starts from the grafted grapevine plant itself and finally the importance of rootstocks.
Join us on June, 28, July, 5 and September 6 to learn about this often overlooked aspect of viticulture!
Part I: How to produce a grafted grapevine? (June 28, 2021)
Join Thomas Dormegnies of Bérillon Nursery as he walks us through grafted grapevine production from start to finish. Learn the steps, the vocabulary, and the thought processes behind the technique! Thomas will discuss reception and preparation of scions and rootstocks, whip and tongue (English cleft) grafting, stratification, planting, maintenance, sorting, hot water treatment and storage before delivery. This webinar will cover the basics in preparation for a deep dive into cloning and breeding on July 5.
Part II: How to maintain diversity? (July 5, 2021)
Join Thomas for part 2 of the Grafted Grapevine series as he explores the genetic mass selection of grape varieties intended for grafting. Bérillon’s team of breeders only source its scion material from old vine vineyards in order to identify, build-upon and preserve intra-varietal genetic diversity. The selected cuttings are tested to make sure the specimens are virus-free before being propagated. These same steps are carried out for international, regional, heritage and forgotten grape varieties. The next session will focus on rootstocks and their relationship to soil and climatic stresses.
Part III: Rootstocks, a solution for climate change? (September 6, 2021)
For the final webinar of the series, Thomas will focuses on rootstocks, the living link between scion and soil. Bérillon has a collection of 20 different rootstock varieties that can accommodate a wide variety of different pedological and climatic constraints. One rootstock does not fit all! Thomas will discuss this link between rootstock and terroir, and how they may impact flavor. As climate continues to change, as farming practices continue to change, rootstocks have been and are increasingly key to vine health. Find out why!
Vine Breeder and Engineer at Bérillon Nursery
Thomas graduated from the Agronomic Engineering School of Rennes in Plant Selection and Improvement and of Montpellier in Viticulture-Oenology, He has been working as a vine breeder in the wine nursery for 18 years. This work of plant archeology, also called "mass selection", consists of identifying future candidates found in old vineyards and breeding them in the nursery.
Passionate about plants, he roams the old vineyards of France and Europe in search of the widest possible genetic diversity, whether for the most multiplied international grape varieties or "modest" or forgotten grape varieties. This work requires a solid knowledge of plant physiology as well as ampelography, or the art of distinguishing grape varieties from one another using leaves, twigs or fruits.
His activity within the Bérillon Nursery (www.lilian-berillon.fr) also leads him to follow the planting projects of their clients, advising them both on the choice of their plant material and on the management of their soils. This is a comprehensive approach that links agronomy and pedology for the sake of sustainability and transmission of plantations.
Thomas is also a winemaker along the French Atlantic coast, he therefore has complete experience of the wine industry, from the selection of future vines to the vinification and marketing of the wines.