Let’s make an experiment: close your eyes and imagine a vineyard (hey! We said vineyard, not outstanding and delicious natural wine! 😉 ). We are pretty sure that you are seeing a lively place, full of colours and nature, with luscious grapes of different shades hanging around the green. Well, that’s a part of the scenery: it is what you can see during Summer, for example; but what happens in the vineyard in Winter?
Vineyard: where the magic begins
Vineyards are the place where the magical experience of wine begins: they are beautiful and they show all the power of nature, as the colourful, rich grapes grow here and start their journey. They are places where nature and mankind meet, between the care of every vine and the harvest. However, they are subjected to the changing season too, therefore they can vary substantially in their look.
Winter in the vineyard
If you think that the vineyard has its best period in Autumn, when the vines are filled with fruits and the harvest is happening, you are pretty much wrong: the best months for the vineyard start right when the grapes are gone, during Winter. This is when the plants finished their production cycle and they can finally rest. They slow down their metabolism and for some months are resting so much you could call it hibernation. Leaves are falling, the plant stops growing and just rest.
Exactly as it happens for humans, rest is a crucial moment for plants as well: this is when all the energies are restored for the next production; it is no surprise that for wine producers Winter is when the most important care steps take place: pruning and replanting.
Pruning of the vines
Pruning is the process of cutting the branches in excess from the plant, leaving on only the ones that are meant to gemmate and then produce fruits; this operation often cuts off the higher of the two canes that the plant grows. Generally, the process starts in December and ends in February, but depending on the average weather for the year and the location of the vineyard it can happen differently.
This first step in the production of grapes and then wine is crucial to maintain the integrity of the plants, as too much density of grapes and leaves can lead in the long period to a weakening of the culture and of the production in general.
Pruning is not the only important operation that is accomplished during Winter, as there is actually another fundamental one: the replanting of the vines. The plants in which a vineyard consists are not eternal: the average life of a vine is around 25 years (even if some exceptions can reach 45/50 years old), after which the plant loses its productivity and it has to be replaced with a new one that will take around 5 years to bear its first full fruits. Therefore, from time to time the plants have to be replanted; this operation is made in Winter to respect the life cycle of the entire vineyard.
The issue of climate change
The importance of Winter in wine production teaches us something precious: nature needs seasons and changes in its life cycle. Unluckily, the climate changes we are experiencing are making it difficult for vineyards to live at their best: a warm Winter might mean no rest for the plants, event that later might mean a shorter life span of the vine and a damaged, weak production. We all have to try and make our planet better, or we might soon be forced to empty glasses.