When Spring arrives, the lifecycle of the grape begins anew. Bud break signals the start of the grape growing season. Depending on the weather, bud break generally occurs in mid-March or early April in the Northern Hemisphere. The vines awaken from dormancy and start pumping energy into the woody part of the vine to produce buds. Barring any hailstorms or damaging spring frost, nature prepares for photosynthesis and warmer weather.
As bud break turns into vegetative growth, the next process of the grape vine begins from April to May. Flowering is when bunches of tiny flowers bloom from the new vine shoots. Grape vines are self-pollinating, so each of these flowers has the potential to turn into a single berry.
The next growth stage, fruit set, is critical as it determines the potential crop yield for the harvest. As the summer months near, the pollinated flower drops its petals and tiny green grape berry clusters with seeds develop at the end of the stem. Not every flower is fertilized into a berry, so it simply falls off the vine.
Veraison occurs in mid-summer, when the green berry clusters begin to expose their color pigmentation. Veraison stems from a French viticulture term meaning “the onset of grape ripening”. This is the process in which the berry clusters begin ripening and turning purple or blueish in color, depending upon the grape varietal. White grape varietals turn golden yellow in the same fashion. The heat of summer induces sugar development and ripening in each grape, while the cool evenings preserve natural acidity and freshness.
Harvest is the much anticipated culmination of the grape growth cycle. Global warming has dramatically altered the traditional September to November harvest time. It is common practice to harvest in the middle of the night in warmer areas when the grapes are cool and the sugars are resting. It’s a little sad to see the vines stripped of their fruit after harvest, but it’s all part of nature’s way. Soon, the vines will be dormant and the grape lifecycle will repeat itself. Here’s to a great growing season with no drama!