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How wine grapes grow - the vine growing cycle

Wine Growing Cycle

Last week part of the Winestyr team was fortunate enough to be out in beautiful Napa and Sonoma visiting some wineries.  While there, we got a first-hand look at how the growing season is going.  Most of the winemakers we spoke to were pretty positive on the season so far, so hopefully this year gives us some great wines to enjoy!  But what exactly are the stages of the wine growing season?  Read on to find out more.

The vine growing cycle has four main phases.  First, usually around March for the northern hemisphere, there is bud break, when buds on the vine begin to swell and eventually shoot off from the main vine.  This is an important time for winemakers, as it signals the start of the growing season; it is also a dangerous time – frost, for example, could be very damaging at this stage.

The second main stage is flowering, which in the northern hemisphere occurs around May.  In this stage, grape flowers form, grow, and open.  Pollination and fertilization follow, after which the flower transforms into a grape berry.  Winemakers have to be careful of parasites during this stage, and also hope to avoid excessive cool, wind, or rain.

The formation of the grape berry leads directly into the third stage, fruit set.  In this stage, the grape berry continues to develop to protect the fertilized seed within.  There is one additional stage before harvest – veraison, which is when the berries change color from green as they begin to ripen.  Veraison is an exciting time in the vineyards - when I worked in Napa for a summer, the vineyard dog and I would roam the fields in the morning looking for rabbits and the first signs of veraison, respectively.

From veraison, which is normally over by August, winemakers will be eagerly measuring things like sugar content to determine when to harvest the grapes!  In Napa and Sonoma, harvest usually occurs during September and October. 

Here is wishing all of our winemaking friends an excellent growing season and a fruitful harvest!

By Pooneet Kant

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