Work in the vineyard prior to harvest
As we already commented in the previous post, the quality of a wine depends largely on the quality of the grapes at harvest. Therefore, it’s not just the work carried out in the Bodegas Montecillo winery that is of importance, but also the work that takes place previously in the vineyards that provide us with the grapes for our wines.
As you know, the vine cycle is an annual process and the vine grower is responsible for listening to and interpreting the language of the vine and, as a consequence, giving it all the care and attention that it requires at each moment. In order to get the most out of the vines, the work in the vineyard must go on uninterrupted throughout the year.
What does this all mean in terms of the day-to-day, or, rather, month-by-month of the vineyards? We will give a general overview, although bear in mind that the vine grower of each vineyard is the person in charge of making the final decision on which jobs need carrying out and when.
Winter is the quietest time in the vineyards although the work never ceases completely. While the vine is dormant, the viticultor clears away the previous year’s vine shoots, a task known as pruning.
Why is pruning so important? Because thanks to this, the production of each vine can be calculated and planned for, otherwise, it would branch and grow out of control.
You must remember that the plant has a limited amount of nutrients that it must distribute between all the bunches, that’s why it is better that there aren’t too many of them.
The pruned wood is normally burnt or shredded after pruning. We could say that pruning is the green light as it signals the start of more intense work in the vines.
As a result of pruning, as soon as temperatures start to rise, the phenomenon known as “bleeding” or sap rising starts. When the vines wake from their well-deserved sleep and the sap starts to circulate again, it escapes through the cuts made in pruning, as if the vine were bleeding, hence the name.
Just like the human body, the vine has the capacity to close its own wounds so the bleeding stops after a few days. A nice story, don’t you think?
Tilling the soil
Once the vineyard has woken up from its lethargy (in March), the moment comes to prepare the soil with the first tilling: the soil is dug over, aerated and weeds are buried. This encourages the reactivation of the roots and plants. From now until harvest, the soil will be worked again and again and any attacks from parasites will be monitored closely.
When the first shoots start to appear in April, new vines will be planted or grafting will take place. If the vineyard is trained on wires, these will also be repaired during this period of the year. A few months later, in June, the vine shoots will be tied down on the trellis system.
Clearing and green harvesting
When the first fruit appears, the vines are cleared thoroughly, removing any unnecessary stalks to avoid the vine wasting energy in vain. In addition, if it appears likely that the vine’s production is going to be very excessive, a few bunches will also be removed. We are now in the month of July.
We’re on the home strait. During the ripening period, all eyes are on the vine so as not to go beyond the perfect moment or harvest too soon. As you already know, harvesting the grape at one moment or other is a major decision on which the season’s success depends. At this point close collaboration between the oenologist and viticultor is of extreme importance.
The harvest or picking of the grapes is the climax of all the work that has been carried out in the vineyard throughout the year. You could say that it is like a final exam for which it is very important to have applied yourself thoroughly throughout the whole course. But that’s not all: although the harvest takes place over a short period of time, you must still keep your eyes on the heavens, as the weather can ruin all the previous months’ hard work.
But don’t let’s get ahead of ourselves… We’ll tell you all about the harvest soon enough.
When the harvest is finished, the next step is to fertilise the soil with manure so that it can recover all its lost nutrients. It is also the moment to carry out necessary repairs on channels, paths, terraces… And the cycle begins once again.