The vineyard’s new season really starts early April. The first hedge-cut trim is made at more or less 75 cm above the ground to get rid of the longer branches and to make pruning easier and faster. After, the real pruning starts first with the non hilled-up vines followed by the hilled-up ones.
The removal of the mound of soil from the base of the vines usually starts around April 15. It is a delicate task that needs to be timed properly. If it is done too early when the ground is still frozen, the buds will be pulled out by the frozen clods. If it is done too late, the buds will have had time to soften with the heat and they become fragile. Given that the terrain of the vineyard is in a slope, we cannot do it easily when the soil is too humid. It is exceptional that the removal of the mounds at the vineyard is not completed by the 26 or 28 of April. This process can make us lose up to 10% of the buds if it is not done on time.
The buds bloom near the end of April and the beginning of May. It is at this moment that they become very susceptible to cold. Luckily at the vineyard Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise, there has been only one frost episode on May 2 in 23 years. The selective pruning continues along May and it is finished the first days of June. It is an extremely important operation that is done by professional pruners. For each variety, the pruner needs to leave the number of buds that will yield and consequently the number of clusters the grapevine will be able to support and ripen. If too many clusters are left on the vine, the grapes will not ripen properly or fast enough. This also forces the plant and endangers the production for the following years. Furthermore, pruning needs to prepare the vine for next year’s spring by leaving some branches in the low part of the vine so they can be protected by the hilling up of fall. May is also the perfect time to plant new grapevines or to replace damaged ones.
At the beginning of June, while pruning is finished and according to need, one or several treatments with herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or foliar feed are applied.
Flowering starts at the vineyard Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise. It lasts about 10 days. The Foch variety is usually the first one to bloom. Flowering is a crucial period as it determines the quality of the harvest. During those last 15 days of June, we hope to have the most favorable conditions for flowering: sunlight, dry weather and a bit of wind.
End of June
The vine shoots already extend around a dozen centimeters and they invade the rows making tractor work impossible. It is time then for the trellising, that is, to raise the vine shoots and to attach them to a system of wires. By raising the branches, trellising enables a better sun exposure and it avoids the clusters from touching the ground. Shortly after flowering, the fruit set stage begins and grapes are formed. It is at this moment when it can be seen if the flowering was properly done.
July and August
The grapevines are watched closely. In July the usual vertical and horizontal trimming is done to remove the excessive branches. During this period, the vines are closely monitored to detect harmful insects or microscopic fungus (mildew and oidium) that rot the grapes. Several specific products can be used against certain type of insects that usually attack particular varieties. Against fungi, different fungicides are sprayed in specific quantities at the appropriate time and on need. Hot and humid weather favors the development of mildew and oidium. Usually hoeing and weeding are also done in July and August.
By the end of July, some grape varieties start the veraison stage where the changes of color of the grapes occur. In August the grapes start ripening, they grow bigger and the sun builds up their sugar. At the end of August, the fungicides treatments need to stop as the harvest approaches.
From the beginning of September, we start verifying the degree of ripeness of the grapes. This is made with the help of a device called the refractometer that instantly gives the sugar concentration level, therefore, the degree of alcohol and subsequently its ripeness. Our different varieties reach their ripeness at different times. Thus, at the Vineyard Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise, it is always Foch the first one harvested around September 15. Then it is Aurore and the others. The last one is always Gamay towards October 13.
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