Bud break has started in the Napa Valley, the time when the vines awaken from their winter slumber. This signals the official beginning of the 2013 season and the perfect way to begin our brand-new Buccella Blog page where I plan on keeping you updated with what’s happening in the vineyards, in the winery, and in the glass.
What is bud break? Bud break is the first step in the annual cycle of grapevine growth when vines leave their protective winter dormancy behind. Increasing temperature and daylight hours causes the sap to start flowing in the dormant grapevine. First the buds swell. Then enter the “popcorn” stage – so named because they resemble almost popped popcorn kernels. And finally reaching full bud break and shoot growth.
Why do Winegrowers care so much about this stage? It sets the fundamentals for the new vintage. The exact start and length of bud break changes from year to year, but generally it falls between mid-March and mid-April. An early bud break may or may not indicate an early harvest, but it certainly indicates higher frost risk, as the new growth is extremely sensitive to low temperatures. The other factors that are of interest to me are how much time it takes for a vineyard to move from start to finish and how much difference there is between vineyards. The former gives me some early ideas about how uniformly the vineyard will ripen. I’ve been known to harvest the same vineyard three or more times in the same year to make sure we’re getting only perfectly ripened fruit. The latter gives me an early warning as to how “crazy” the harvest is going to be. Will all the fruit be ready to pick at the same time? Or will I have a nice evenly paced harvest spread out over six weeks?
So now that the 2013 growing season has started, what does that really mean? Well, the relaxing winter spent focusing on fine-tuning the 2011 blends and preparing the young 2012 vintage for elevage (aging in barrel) is over. I’m starting to visit each and every one of our vineyards on a two-week cycle to monitor the growth and development. It’s important now to keep a close eye on the vines, because all the work we do now sets us up for perfectly ripened clusters come fall. Our next major operation will be suckering, removing the unwanted shoots. STAY TUNED….
Please feel free to add any questions or comments you may have and I will do my best to comment on them.