The Turning Of The Seasons
Grapes have an annual life cycle and each season plays a vital role in that cycle.
For us here at Pfeiffer Wines, our new year begins after our “pfabulous” and “pfamous” Winery Walkabout which is held every Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June. It is then, in the depths of Winter, that we start pruning the vineyard. Bbrrrr! Yes it is cold but this short time of 10 weeks is when the vines are dormant and can be cut or rather pruned, in a particular way which will determine the way the vine will perform for the next harvest time in the actual New Year. By the end of August the pruning job has been done and each vine now knows exactly what it is expected to do.
But wait, we have to get through the Spring time blues. Most people associate Winter with the blues but Spring is our most crucial and worrying time of the whole year. Being on the plains west of the Great Divide, we are subject to the cold night temperatures under the big expanse of clear night skies and that means frost. Frost while we prune in Winter is our friend, or rather “pfriend”. Frost in Spring can destroy our potential crop. You see, if we get frost when the vines are shooting their brand new leaves and producing their delicate flowers, it is like putting a blow torch over the vineyard. Can you imagine trying to make a salad from a lettuce that has been put in the freezer? If the vineyard gets frosted when the vines are in this vulnerable stage, then all that hard work of pruning during Winter is wasted. The potential crop is like the lettuce from the freezer. It is gone and will not have a chance to come again till the vines have been pruned again next Winter. So while we rejoice that Spring has sprung and our world is springing to life again, we worry, we watch and we wait with our fingers and toes crossed that we will come through Spring with our crop for the next year safe.
Then comes Summer with the glorious warm days, the extra daylight and the growing season in the vineyard. Having got through Spring, the vines become thick with tough, almost leathery leaves, protecting their precious crop of grapes from too much sun. The bunches of grapes continue to get larger as the berries swell and by Christmas, they look like bunches of green peas. We (with the help of our scarecrows) have scared off the birds and the bugs and now, as we say “Happy New Year” we watch and wait for each variety of grape to ripen, change colour, develop flavour and eventually be ready for harvest, usually in early February, as Summer ends. Some people say this is the start of the New Year, but I truly believe for us, our new year began last Winter.
So now into Autumn, one by one, we harvest the “fruits of our labour”. As each variety of grapes reaches optimal ripeness and full flavour, we pick the grapes, we harvest our precious crop. Sometimes this is during the cool hours of the night by a grape harvesting machine and sometimes it is harvesting by hand at the beginning of each day before it gets too hot. This is the most exciting time of the year, the beginning of the wine being made. Some would say this is the start of the New Year but I am sticking to my belief that the New Year for us began last Winter. However it is the beginning for the wine. With Vintage 2016 coming soon, it will first be the harvest or the picking, then the crushing and then a myriad of winemaking activities which I will tell you about in “The Life of a Winemaker” as seen through my eyes, (those being the eyes of the wife of one winemaker, and the Mother of the other) next time in our Autumn 2016 newsletter.