Fall is upon us and it is this season that starts the harvest of grapes to glass. Have you ever thought about the lifecycle of a vine or how long it takes to get grapes to make that wonderful transition from vineyard to glass?
The physical structure of the vine as cultivated. It consists of a single trunk that connects its underground root system to the above ground structure of branches, shoots and leaves. The root system continues to grow and spread throughout the lifetime of the vine, and is capable of pulling water and nutrients from soil deep below the surface. The trunk thickens slowly with time, growing from a slender stick to a gnarled, tree-like pillar after many years. In nature, grapes propagate by producing seeds. The skin and pulp of the grape are designed to protect the seed from damage and nourish it while it matures.
A newly planted vine will produce grapes during its first or second season, but the clusters are usually considered substandard. It is isn’t until its third year, which is sometimes called “third leaf,” that the vine begins to produce good fruit and it is common to say, that after six years, the grapevine develops to the point where its fruit is at its optimal quality level. It will then produce its best grapes for a decade or more.
The annual growth cycle of a vine is most successful in temperate climates. The cycle begins in the spring, once temperatures start to get up above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). Tiny shoots emerge on the branches which we call “bud break.” As the shoots begin to grow and strengthen, leaves begin to develop. Once the leaves appear, photosynthesis can begin and the plant can take in energy directly from the sun.
Flowering is the next phase and takes 40-80 days after bud break. Clusters of tiny flowers appear at intervals and for every flower that is fertilized, it will become a grape. The transition from flower to berry is called “berry set” or “fruit set.” As the berries start to mature in size over the next three months, a process called “veraison” takes place. It is most noticeable in red grapes which begin to take on color. White grapes also change in appearance, remaining green, but become translucent or golden.
Harvest takes place a month or two after veraison. When the grapes are ripe in terms of sugar levels and physiological maturity which translates into tannin, color, and flavor, and aromas become fully formed in the grapes resulting in the wine.
Time from bud break to harvest is normally around 140-160 days but can be as short as 110 days or as long as 200 days.
We are at the point of harvest in many countries where the aromas of crushed grapes fill the air. What an incredible aroma and what a journey the grape and grapevine together take.
The end result is a delicious glass of red or white that fits your occasion or your budget.
Kimberly Fisher is Director of Fine Wine Sales for Badger Liquor & Spirits