Keine Kamera verfügbar. Bitte Zugriff auf Kamera erlauben und Applikation neu starten.

All around the vineyard

Every winter when the sap is no longer rising in the vine, the shoots from last year are pruned.
This is one of the most important jobs for every winegrower as it determines the potential yield and quality of the grapes for the next vintage. The arithmetic is not difficult: for every bud left on the vine during pruning, one shoot should grow in the spring, with two grape clusters per shoot. With experience, a grower knows how many bunches of grapes the vineyard is able to support and will calculate the number of buds accordingly. At the same time, the grower also knows how many new shoots will grow in the spring and will position buds in such a way as to create a canopy that will optimally catch the sun's rays and is easy to manage

The grape harvest

Choosing the right time to harvest is one of the most important decisions made during the wine year as the composition of the substances in the grapes at this point in time is crucial for the quality of the wine.
Ideally the grapes should be harvested when the aromas and the tannin have reached the optimum degree of ripeness and their acidity and sugar levels are harmoniously balanced. But how do you figure out when that is? The traditional rule of thumb was that the grapes ripened 100 days after flowering. This is approximately right, but it's not nearly precise enough for such an important decision. When the grapes become softer in late summer and lose their green hue, the grower will begin analysing the sugar levels and aroma ripeness of carefully planted test vines – weekly to begin with, then daily. These test vines represent an average of the grapes in the vineyard to be harvested. The precise harvesting date is then chosen on the basis of these measurements.
Choosing when to harvest is nevertheless not entirely straightforward. The grapes in various parts of the vineyard will usually be at different degrees of ripeness. This effect is even more pronounced in a hot year such as 2015. Moreover, if there are a lot of hot sunny days, the sugar level of the grapes often rises much faster than the aromas and tannins develop. Another effect of a hot and dry summer is that the ripening point of different grape varieties will be closer together. More harvest workers will then be required, and more fermentation vessels will need to be available too. It is therefore a major challenge for growers to decide when to harvest and plan everything well in advance.

Hand-harvesting v. machine harvesting?

Machine harvesting is often associated with lesser-quality wines. Hand-picking, on the other hand, is often specifically mentioned on the back label of many wines as a quality characteristic.
These prejudices are not borne out by evidence from serious wine tastings, however. In contrast to climate, pruning, vineyard management during the year and the winemaking techniques used, the harvesting method has very little effect on the quality of the wine. Often grapes are only hand-picked because the terrain makes mechanical harvesting impossible, or because the machines are too expensive. What is more crucial for the quality of the grapes is the time of harvesting. As bigger areas can be harvested more quickly using machines, harvesting can be carried out with more precise timing in large vineyards. So not every hand-picked wine will necessarily taste great.

Canopy management

Canopy management is all about regulating the climate in the vine's canopy. This microclimate is extremely important for the ability of a vineyard to grow good grapes and consequently also produce good wines.
Canopy management covers such tasks as removing extraneous new shoots, thinning out the leaves around the fruiting zone, tying in shoots to form a canopy, trimming shoots once the canopy reaches a certain height, and removing lateral shoots. During its entire growing period, therefore, the grower is constantly managing the shoots and leaves of the vine to maximize direct sun exposure for the leaves, and to achieve a balance between canopy area and the quantity of grapes. High-quality grapes can only ripen if the conditions for photosynthesis for all the green parts of the vine are optimum.

Rootstock – protection from phylloxera and other diseases

Phylloxera was accidentally introduced into Europe from America in the 1860s, resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of vines in the 20 years that followed.
These vineyards were replanted using indigenous grape varieties grafted onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstock. The most important consideration when choosing rootstock, therefore, is resistance to phylloxera. In addition, the combination of the rootstock and grafted vine should produce a good must weight and optimum balanced yields. A grower must choose carefully from the dozens of rootstock varieties available, taking into consideration vigour, frost-resistance, tolerance to salts, drought-resilience and nutrient uptake. Only the optimum combination of rootstock and noble grape will ensure good grapes.

How much does a vineyard cost?

How do you make a small fortune in winemaking? You invest a large fortune! This all too true witticism tells you just how expensive a vineyard can be.
In a famous region and site, for example a Grand Cru appellation in Champagne, a hectare (10,000 square metres) of vineyard can cost over a million Swiss francs. In lesser known areas, where there may even be overproduction issues, the price drops to around ten thousand francs per hectare. That is less than what it costs to plant one hectare with new vines. Depending on region, that can namely cost between thirty and seventy-five thousand francs. This includes the cost of the land, vines for planting, a vine training system and irrigation.

What grows between the vine rows?

Herbaceous plants are usually sown between vine rows nowadays. Until around ten years ago, herbicides were still commonly used to kill off everything growing there apart from the vines.
This often resulted in problems with erosion as there were no plant roots between the rows that could bind the soil during heavy rainfall. As well as covering the ground, planting greenery also brings other benefits: Mowing or ploughing in the plants produces mulch and nitrogen which are good for vine growth. In a damp spring, the greenery also helps the water in the soil evaporate, making it easier to regulate the water available to the vines and consequently speed up grape ripening. This improves the quality of the grapes, and thus the wine, in high rainfall years.

Global warming

The impact of global warming on viticulture is undeniable. Cooler regions such as the Moselle for example, where previously the grapes were unable to ripen fully in many years, are now producing good quality wines year after year.
It is estimated that winegrowing regions will see average temperatures increase by a further 1°C to 2°C by 2050. Worldwide, this would mean a loss of some 25% to 70% of current vineyard hectarage. Large parts of Tuscany or Bordeaux, for example, would become too hot and too dry to produce top wines. Professor of Oenology Dr Gregory Jones from Southern Oregon University, a leading expert on the impact of global warming on viticulture, posed the question: "Will any region be able to continue making the exact same style of wines?"
Producers need to seek out new areas suitable for planting vines in future. This is already happening, in some higher altitude regions for example. Wine producers are active and innovative. So it's highly likely we will still be able to enjoy excellent wines in future, just perhaps not from the traditional regions...

Does phylloxera still exist?

Phylloxera, a microscopic louse, was accidentally introduced into Europe from America in the 1860s, resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of hectares of vines in the 20 years that followed.
Vines do not die directly as a result of infestation, but from the fungal infection that attacks their roots as a result of the damage caused by this louse. Once phylloxera has found its way into a vineyard, it cannot be eradicated, other than by ripping out all the vines. The louse spreads into new vineyards chiefly via machines, soil and cuttings. As such cuttings are exported from Europe to the entire world, phylloxera is present today in all winegrowing countries except for Chile. Vineyards continue to exist, however, because native grape varieties have been grafted onto resistant American rootstock.