Growing grapes follows an annual cycle - broken down into a series of phenological events - with vineyard operations timed around these events. Phenology is the study of natural phenomena that recur periodically in plants and animals. The main phenological stages in grapes are budburst (when dormant vines begin the sprout new shoots), flowering, set (beginning of fruit development), veraison (beginning of fruit ripening) and leaf fall. The diagram below illustrates the annual cycle. The passing of each phenological event announces the beginning of a new stage in the vineyard management cycle. These stages (represented by the letters A-E) have an associated set of vineyard operations. The timing of each stage correlates strongly with weather indices.
Over winter, the vines are dormant and during this time they are pruned to the required number of buds for the coming growing season. Budburst announces the beginning of the new growing season and for the next 4 months the shots will grow and need to be trained to produce a full, open canopy. During this time flowering occurs followed closely by set (beginning of berry development) and although the vine is concentrating most of its energy on shoot growth, the small berries are beginning to grow. By mid January (July in the northern hemisphere), the canopies are full and need to be trimmed, and around this time, the crop load is assessed to determine whether fruit will need to be removed. March (Sept) is the time for the next phenological stage, known as veraison. The berries are nearly full size and over the period of one week will turn from green to red (red varieties) and this transition allows a brief glimpse at the comparative advancement of individual vines, and indeed individual bunches. Veraison indicates the beginning of ripening, with the vine now focusing on moving sugar to the berries. After the grapes have reached optimal ripeness, they are harvested. The vine then prepares for the winter and begins to store carbohydrate in the woody parts of the vine.
A. Winter - vines dormant
Pruning involving cutting, stripping (mechanised stripping equipment on Pellenc harvester video) and tying down.
B. Spring management
Cover crop management, Budrubbing, Shoot thinning, Lifting wires, Canopy management, Undervine weed management (video)
C. Summer management
Cover crop management, Lifting wires, Vine trimming, Canopy management, Leaf plucking, Yield assessment, Yield adjustment.
Yield adjustment, Net application to control bird damage. Other methods used include deterents like bird scarers (video).
Machine harvesting - Video 1 harvester, Video 2 Harvester tipping into gondola, Video 3 Gondola tipping into truck for transport.
Trucks are dispatched from the vineyard to be received at the winery.
E. Autumn management
Net removal, Winterization of plant and equipment, Planting cover crops
Now that you understand the basics of growing grapes continue on to learn about vineyard site selection or vineyard design.