Although grape harvesting is the highlight of his year, it is but a part of the winegrower’s calendar, following the rhythm of vine and seasons.
During its first years of existence, the vine grows, extends its roots deep in the ground but produces no grapes. After 4 or 5 years, thanks to the grower’s work, at last the vine begins to produce.
The vine yearly growth cycle starts before spring when the stock wakes up after the long winter sleep, and sap starts dripping tears from the cut shoots.
As soon as the temperature becomes milder, towards March or April, the latent buds develop, burst open and start growing tiny leaves (budburst).
Flowers appear at the beginning of June, when the temperature reaches about 20°C, they open (Bloom) and exhale a light perfume. From this depends the quantity of berries per bunch.
After the flowers appear the grape berries (setting) and the shoots stop growing.
At the beginning of summer, the berries increase their size but remain green. Then they start to colour and take shape (Veraison) 6 to 8 weeks after Bloom. They keep on growing and maturing (Maturation) until September.
Then comes autumn, adorned with marvellous colours, before the next winter sleep.
• January :
Pruning time ; although this is sometimes started in December and it will go on until March. As the winegrowers say, they cause the vines to weep, that is, tear drops ooze from the cuts. This pruning dictates the quantity and quality of the fruit; a decrease in the number of shoots will increase the strength of the remaining shoots and the size of the berries. It is a delicate task for the grower who must choose which shoots to keep, according to their appearance and the number of bunches expected, that is, the yield.
• February :
Pruning goes on. Also taking cuttings for future plantations.
• March :
Last pruning before the vine awakens. Now it is time to plough to draw the soil away from all around the foot of the vines towards the middle of the row.
• April :
Planting and tying. The shoots being delicate, need to be supported, therefore they are tied onto lengths of wire (2 or 3 horizontal rows held by staples).
• May :
There is a risk of frost. Hoeing to weed (No more chemical weeding); spraying against oidium and mildew; thinning the leaves to ensure a better ventilation.
• June :
Bloom. Time to tie the shoots to stakes and to trim the shoots to maintain uniformity. It is also the period when the suckers are removed from the stock.
• July :
Bordeaux mixture is sprayed and there is a last cut for overlong shoots. Now only the weather will have any influence on the future harvest which will take place 100 days after Bloom.
• August :
At this time, it is not advisable to work the soil, the grower hopes for sunshine while he carries out some maintenance work in the vineyard. This is the time of the « green harvest », in other words of thinning the bunches of grapes to improve the development and the quality of the remaining bunches.
• September :
This is the highlight in the grower’s life : harvesting starts towards the middle of the month as soon as the grapes are ripe. Although machines are sometimes used, the grapes are handpicked for the Grands Crus and for the liquoreux since it is necessary to go several times through the rows to pick only bunches affected by the Noble Rot. Then there is all the preparation of the chais (rooms where the grapes are vinified and stored).
• October :
Sometimes harvesting is still in progress, especially for the liquoreux, but the winegrower is at his busiest in the chais attending to the vinification.
• November :
Preparing for winter. The base of the vines is earthed up as a protection against frost.
• December :
Pruning can start mid-month.