The seasons

The seasons

The vine awakens the spring after a well-deserved winter rest! The summer she prepares for the pickers. The Loire Valley Vineyards to the rhythm of the season, in the vineyards and in the cellars.

Pruning and new wine

In the vineyard…

Harvesting is over, and in the vineyard the leaves are slowly falling. The vines have given the best of themselves, and now is the time – depending on vintage – to look at any organic or mineral inputs that may be needed. The winegrowers prepare to prune their vines by removing the trellising – the metal supports holding up the branches of the Loire Valley vines.

Pruning will continue until March. Pruning the vine regulates its vigour and determines theoretical crop load.

…and in the cellar

Fermentation has finished for all except the richest, sweetest wines, and the new wines are coming along well. In the cellar, the cellar master is beginning to blend the wines made to be drunk young, and the maturing process is starting for those with good keeping potential.

Once malolactic fermentation is over, the reds undergo soutirage, or racking, as part of the aging process. Some of the lighter, more supple wines are now ready to drink. 

3rd Thursday in November: the new wines are ready to go!

The new Touraine and Anjou Gamay wines are ready to drink just after bottling, and are on sale from the 3rd Thursday in the November following harvest. The production process is especially meticulous for these wines. Bunches are left whole to ferment in tanks in a carbon dioxide rich environment for several days before being pressed; the resulting wine is full of the vibrancy of youth – like biting into fresh grapes! There are many festivals to celebrate these first wines of the year, notably in Amboise, Montrichard, Onzain, Tours and Blois.

The vines come to life – and bottling begins

In the vineyard…

The Loire Valley vineyards come to life in spring, starting their new cycle of growth. The sap rises into the branches and “weeps” through the scars left by pruning. The vines gradually progress from stage to stage. At bud break (when tiny buds on the vine start to swell and grow into shoots), winegrowers are fearful of spring frosts; once the danger is past, the secondary buds, and any other unwanted buds, are removed

Until the feast days of the famous Ice Saints, St Mamert, St Pancrace and St Servais  which fall on the 11th, 12th and 13th of May respectively, the Loire Valley vineyards face a very real threat of spring frosts. These could potentially wipe out all or part of the crop.
Floraison, or the flowering stage, makes it possible for winemakers to predict the approximate date of harvest, which falls some 110 days later. At fruit-set, the flowers become berries. Meanwhile, it is also time to start lifting the vines, tying them in to their supports, and trimming back the suckers on these vigorous climbing plants.

…and in the cellar

The spring cuvées and Easter wines – whites and fruit-driven rosés - are bottled and shipped out after just a few weeks’ rest. Meanwhile, other wines continue to age.

Some of the more structured wines are bottled just before summer, and with the exception of certain wines which require prolonged ageing, the last wines of the vintage are bottled in autumn, when calm has once more returned to the winery.  

A makeover for the vines, and preparing for harvest

In the vineyard…

Work continues to improve vine quality. Leaves are thinned on the sunrise side of the vine, and green harvests (removing fruit while it is still unripe) ensure that any surplus bunches are removed. After véraison, when the berries change colour (this is the real start of ripening), the vines stop growing.  
During August, the vines harden off –they are the ones to change colour this time- and their shoots turn from green to brown.

…and in the cellar

This is the time to get the cellar ready to receive the harvest. During the last days of August once they have everything prepared, the winegrowers can take a very short rest before the long, arduous days ahead. 

Harvest in the vineyards and full steam ahead in the winery

In the vineyard…

It is crucial now to determine the right date to start harvesting in order to gather grapes at their peak of ripeness, both phenolic and physiological. This can depend on varietal, parcel and harvesting technique – but one of the fundamental determining elements is, of course, the weather.  .

…and in the cellar

From the start of harvest, the winery is in full swing. Grapes are being brought in, destemmed and pressed; alcoholic fermentation begins and needs monitoring; wines are transferred from one tank to another; they are pumped over and punched down, red wines are moved to barrels…and this is just the start of the vinification process, and is repeated over and over as fresh grapes are brought in. It is the most fascinating – but also the most exhausting – time in the winemaker’s year.

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