Cycling every day in France, my roads cross through many vineyards. Throughout the years I’ve become intrigued by the work of the winegrowers that I cross each day and each season.
Winter in French Vineyards
This time of year is a bit eerie and the vineyards remind of lines of crosses in a cemetery. They are beautiful in their own peaceful way.
It’s sleepy time for the vineyard. The plant is saving up energy in its roots waiting for the sun and warmth. But the workers don’t have time for a nap. The winegrower’s job is to prune 95% of the previous year’s growth. They skillfully cut back the growth and wood and shape the vine for years to come. Stakes are repaired and the maintenance of tools are undertaken.
In the Winery its nap time too. The wine pulls on the yeasts, slowly crystalizes the extra acids. Some wines are shifted into different barrels.
Spring in French Vineayrds
As nature awakens, so does the hustle and bustle in the vineyards. The birds start chirping, the bees start humming, and the machinery is brought out.
The lazy rhythm of winter gives way to a frenzy of action as the days grow warmer. Buds appear, turn to leaves; soon it’s time to attach long branches of 8 to 10 eyes. The soil around the vine is turned and mowed. Winegrowers keep a watch and treat diseases.
The activity in the winery has the same frenzy. It’s time to remove the yeast and settlements. Some wines return to barrels for a 2nd fermentation.
Summer in French Vineayrds
Ah that warm sunshine that warms a cyclists back! It feels so good, and does so much for the vineyard.
Summer is just as busy. The de-budding and intertwining of branches continues. The soil continues to be energized and cultivated. The weather is closely watched. The grapes need warm sunshine. They start to change colors, whites becoming more transparent and reds deepening in color. The sugar levels rise.
In the winery the wines are bottles and marketed.
Autumn in French Vineayrds
This is probably the best season to visit vineyards. The spectacle of changing tons of reds, oranges, yellows are beautiful. Each day is a new splendor. It’s hard to keep an eye out for the tractors.
Once the grapes have reached maturity, usually mid-September to the end of October depending on the type of grapes, it’s time to harvest. This takes place during the transition between hot summer days and the cool evenings of autumn, influencing the sugar content. The grapes are either mechanically harvested or hand-picked. The vines stay in place to strengthen the wood stubs and battle against diseases. In France, les vendages, are a national passion. Almost all the regions of France produce wine. Even Tahiti produces a wine (but that’s another story)…
It’s chemistry time in the winery. The masters are at work. As freshly picked grapes enter the winery, they have to be sorted for quality. Once the best grapes have been selected, it’s time to crush them so the yeast can quickly get to work fermenting. While foot-stomping used to be the way to go, it’s most likely machinery that does the job now. The amount of stems and seeds that are left in the mixture decide the quantity of tannins in the future wine. The winemaker has his work cut out.
Can’t wait for another ride with a group of friends !