The life cycle of the wine


Posted by Francesco Properzi Curti

Temperatures increase, the days get longer and the bare landscapes slowly begin to transform into tones of bright colours: spring has promptly returned and everything around us becomes more beautiful and luminous.

It is in this period that I realize that another year has passed and that vegetative world has returned to life in all its splendour.

Like any other plant, the vine has its own LIFE CYCLE that begins at the time it is planted and ends when it will no longer be able to produce.

In the first two or three years of life, the plant is not yet able to produce fruit to the best of its ability, but from the third / fifth year onwards it will be able to do so at least for the following thirty / forty years.

This of course is not a rule, since there are very productive vines that produce excellent quality like the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG of the Bakàn line of the Cantine Torri, which comes from a vine in Martinsicuro (TE) and which is over fifty years old.  

A 100% montepulciano, the result of a selective manual harvest at the end of October, followed by: fermentation in steel, six months of maturation in concrete tanks, a further eighteen months in 50 hl large barrels, and then bottled in total absence of oxygen and refine another six months in the bottle.

A fragrant wine, with complex and refined tastes, with a soft warmth in perfect harmony between freshness and non-invasive tannins that anticipate a persistent and mineral finish.

If you use a nice large glass and wait a few minutes after opening to allow it to manifest itself in all its complexity, not exceeding serving temperature of 18 degrees, you will enjoy one of the best combinations between structured and taste.

During its long life cycle, the vine will experience three annual phases annually: dormant – vegetative – productive phase.

The dormant phase

The dormant phase, which occurs in winter immediately after the harvest, and runs from the first days of December to mid-March. The plant cautiously puts itself in a condition of inactivity, of self-protection, freeing itself from fruits and leaves that adorn it and reducing all vital functions to a minimum. These functions will be restored only after the return of summer and the consequent increase in temperature.

In this phase, the plant undergoes the so-called “DRY PRUNING” which is used to determine the number of buds that will generate the following clusters: 7-10 buds for each shoot if the production goal is quality, and 15-25 gems if the goal is quantity.

The vegetative phase

The vegetative phase, or budding, or germination of the buds that occurs every spring between March and April, is characterized by the metaphorical phrase “WEEPING OF THE VINE”, due the drops of sap drops freed from the points where the pruning was performed. This phenomenon occurs as the lymphatic system (sugar metabolism and cellular activity) reactivates following the rise in temperatures and consequent heating of the soil; it is absolutely necessary to heal the trauma suffered by the vine following pruning.

There are three types of gems:

– ready or summer buds, which give rise only to unproductive branches (female);

– dormant or hibernating buds, which will open only in the following spring to produce buds with flowers and fruits;

– the dormant buds, which remain inactive even for several years and open only in case of need, for example after a frost, to give rise to unproductive branches called suckers.

The production phase

The production phase, in which the plant germinates, produces leaves and ripens the fruits.

Between April and June there will be flowering, or the formation of the first flowers from the stalks, thanks to the transport of pollen by the wind (pollination); In this period we proceed with at least two other prunings, this time it is “GREEN PRUNING”, which has the task of giving a shape to the vine and its shoots, and to clean it from the foliage that would hinder its ventilation.

Fruit setting will take place in July, i.e. the transformation of part of the flowers (about 20%) into fruits (berries).

In some cases, when the weather is bad or the plant is undernourished for some reason, ‘thinning of the berries’ will occur, inhibiting the growth of the already formed berries, to concentrate nourishment and energy to only a few of them;

In this period, once the clusters are formed, we will proceed to a further “GREEN PRUNING” which has the task of thinning out the existing clusters in order to improve the balance between fruits and leaves, in order to allow the right concentration of extractive substances in the grape juice.

Then, between July and August, fruit veraison will occur, ie the fruits will grow in size and begin to turn yellow or red depending on the type of grape. The grapes will begin to retain water, although in this phase they will be rich in acidity and low in sugar;

From this last phase to the harvest, therefore in the next few months, there will be the actual ripening of the grapes, with further growth of the fruit, an increase in sugars and extractive substances inside the pulp and intensity of colouring of the skins. On the clusters and on the berries skins, you will notice a white substance rich in yeasts, the PRUINA, partly responsible for the fermentation of the wine, whose task is to protect the grape from unfavourable atmospheric conditions.

Between July and August, the ripening of the berries will take place, the so-called VERAISON, which will accumulate water, concentrate the sugars and the extractive substances of the pulp, while the skin will turn yellow or blue

Between August and October the clusters will ripen (MATURATION) and will be early or late depending on the type of grape variety. Even the harvest, regardless of the characteristics of the vine, can be carried out early or late depending on the business strategies of the winery or on any characteristics that one wishes to obtain in the final wine. In this phase, the vine prepares itself again to accumulate nutrients, produced in the previous months, to use them as reserves to face a new dormant period.

Good wine to all!