BY OUR RIDGEVIEW VINEYARD MANAGER MATT STRUGNELL
At this time of the year the vineyard takes on a very different appearance. The shoots are rapidly forming a full-height canopy, making the vineyard look a lot greener than it was a few weeks ago. It has been said that you can almost hear the shoots growing.
Now the risk of damage from spring frost is past, the next critical stage that the weather affects is flowering. The bunches are now formed and the flowers are nearly ready to open; each flower can potentially become a berry. This can begin at any time from mid-June to early July. The flowering period can last anything from a few days to a few weeks. The time that the process starts and the period it lasts for is largely down to the weather. If it is warm and dry, then flowering will start earlier and take less time to finish, whereas cooler weather will delay the start and prolong the flowering period.
The weather will also affect how successful flowering is and when the fruit starts to set, we start predicting how ‘full’ the bunches are likely to be. With this information we can estimate how heavy the crop is. This is a matter of great importance for the winery but it is also one of the hardest things to get right, as the weight of the bunches can vary a lot. This is also the time when we can start predicting harvest dates. The time from mid-flowering to harvest is just over 100 days.
The question we are often asked is ‘how is this year’s harvest going to be?’ After flowering we have a good idea but growing grapes in a cool climate can be unpredictable, so the soundest answer is ‘we will let you know when the grapes are safely in the press.’