Winemaking in Spring (and Why Now is a Great Time to Visit Europe)
The grape harvest may not happen until the Fall, but the winemaking process is a continuous one with important cycles throughout the year. In the winter, the vines go dormant, and the winegrower must select the right kind of wood for next year's cycle, and must spend some time shaping the vines to prepare them for the Spring. Even the winery, while quieter during the cold months, has some maintenance to do, like moving wines into different barrels to continue the aging process. So while not as busy, there's still things to be done (and to be seen during a food and wine tour).
And then Spring arrives, and the speed of life changes for the winegrowers around the world. The Spring season varies depending on the part of the world, but, generally speaking, in the North, Spring begins in March. (In the southern hemisphere, naturally, things are reversed, and the Spring is in September). The winegrower starts cleaning up the vineyards, which often means pulling up weeds and checking all the vines for any signs of mildew. The soil too needs to be tended to.
As the weather warms, the sap begins to move in the vines, the grapes begin to bud, and the vines start to 'bleed.' This bleeding occurs when the buds burst and the vines start showing signs of shoots, which grow quickly. Flowers follow a few weeks later, the length of time depending on the grape, and the weather has a big impact on this process. While some rain is important, so too is sunlight, especially if the vines are going to be fruitful next season as well.
The winery too is abuzz during the Spring. Some wines are bottled, while others move on in the winemaking process to ferment. So much attention is often paid attention to harvest time -- which is an exciting time in its own right, which is clear during our Roman Countryside Discovery grape harvest cooking vacation -- but the Spring is an exciting and great time to visit too.
During many of our trips -- in Europe and beyond, guests will meet chefs and local food artisans, but they'll meet winegrowers too with trips to wineries and wine estates. In Italy, visit Antinori's wine estates; in Portugal, historic Evora (where the countryside is carpeted in wildflowers during the Spring) is a great place to learn about the country's modern winemaking techniques; and in France, tour a plethora of wine estates during our Provence cooking vacation Terroir, Touring, and Tasting.
Can't make it this Spring? All of these trips will teach you a thing or two about the winemaking process no matter what the time of year. And, of course, wine is a perfect accompaniment to any meal all year round.
By Liz Hall