The vineyards of Burgundy are alight with flowers, as ‘fleuraison’ began last week. Not just beautiful, this marks the beginning of a countdown to harvest. These next 100 days will be crucial for producers, so in case you see everyone getting in a flap about too much rain or indeed too much sun (so far there has been a lot of rain which is worrying some), we’ve set out a little explainer of the timeline so you can follow along with the antics.
Budburst marks the beginning of the growing season, and with it come new tasks for the vignerons, including limiting yields and promoting quality fruit. Flowering usually begins once temperatures reach about 20°C.
Before flowering, vines are pruned to remove any shoots that could distract energy and minerals away from the fruitful shoots on the vine. They are also often sprayed with natural copper sulphates to protect against mildew. This treatment is only effective for two weeks at a time, so they will need to repeat this process every two weeks throughout the summer, even more so if there is rainfall.
Once shoots are long enough, normally by the end of May, they are attached vertically to wires, this is a form of canopy management. The canopy must be managed throughout the summer in order to allow the vines the best chance at receiving some much needed sunlight, but it is time consuming work as shoots can easily become damaged and vines can grow by up to 10cm a night.
When the vines have begun to flourish, normally by mid June, canopy management must be rigorous to promote sunlight and air circulation. If the vines are not well aerated, they run the risk of some nasty rot. Vines will also be cut back to the size of the trellis, which is normally 1 metre in height. Over the summer, winemakers will be careful to cut back any excess leaves in order to direct the energy to the grapes.
Harvest time! Many producers in Burgundy hand pick the grapes and return to the winery to sort (sometimes also done by hand.) This is the pinnacle of the year in Burgundy, and choosing the perfect time to pick is a sought after skill. Until 2008, this was a blanket time for all in the region known as “le ban des vendanges”, however nowadays it’s up to the individual winemaker to decipher the best time when the acidity and potential alcohol levels will be perfectly balanced. Pick too early and risk under ripe grapes, lacking enough sugar to make sufficient levels of alcohol. However leave it too late and your grapes could be lacking in acidity- you might even run the risk of encountering a devastating hail or rain.
– Lucy Kelly