The Life Cycle of a Grape vine – Bud Break
Jeff’s Corner 4-1–22
Hello, Hello, Hello!
Today is about as beautiful a spring day in the Texas Hill Country as one could possibly imagine. The temp is in the mid 80’s, the humidity around 15%, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Spring is indeed a time of rebirth,
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
So, with these wonderful lines from Mr. Eliot in mind, we will begin a series of stories about the key stages in the life cycle of a grape vine, and coordinate these with photos of when they are happening in our Estate vineyards. Today we’ll talk about bud break, followed by flowering in mid to late April, with fruit set a couple weeks after that. Veraison (color change) will occur in mid-June, and we’ll begin harvest toward the end of July.
Bud break (also called bud burst) begins the annual growth cycle of the vines, and is pretty much right on schedule this year, but maybe a week or so late. It happens when average daytime temperatures rise above 50 degrees, typically in mid to late March.
All winter, while the vines were dormant, they fed themselves on carbohydrates stored in the roots during the fall. As temperatures rise, increasing pressure from the sap in the vines force those fuzzy buds to break out and scream “free at last”.
Growth is slow at this point, but once leaves start to develop they begin to produce new energy through photosynthesis and the shoots can grow as much as an inch per day.
This is a crucial time in the vines’ life cycle. If there is a late freeze after bud break, the entire crop can be lost without preventative measures such as wind turbines to keep warm air close to the ground, or strategically placed fires to generate heat. If spring is too hot, the vines will grow too fast and the grapes will ripen unevenly.
The great André Tchelistcheff, who has been dubbed “The Maestro of Napa Valley” and produced the legendary Cabernets from Beaulieu Vineyards from the late 1930’s to the late ’60’s, not only made the wine, but also grew the grapes. He didn’t think in terms of grape growing and wine making; he considered the entire process “winegrowing.” He was a winegrower.
Dr. Richard Peterson replaced Tchelistcheff in 1968 at BV, and in 2017 I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with Dr. Peterson and judging the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. What a thrill!
Winegrowing encompasses the entire viticultural (grape growing) and vinicultural (wine making) process, and we practice this philosophy in all of our Estate Club wines. From Clint in the vineyard to Jason in the winery, we control the complete process from bud break to bottle.
Don’t touch that dial…