Works in the vineyard follow the seasons : pruning in Winter or harvest in the Fall are key moments in the life of the chateaux. Less famous, whilst as significants, various other works take place as soon as the leaves are growing.
These essential operations contribute to the good balance of the vines, and boost the ripening process.
Mostly carried out in the early days of Spring, when the plant begins to grow, de-budding is often repeated in June or July. The operation consists of removing the young shoots, or chupons, growing on the base of the vine. Generally non-fruit bearing, these branches burn the plant energy, limiting the maturation. Removing the twigs before they grow too big helps the vine to concentrate its energy on the growth of the fruit-bearing shoots.
Leaf-thinning consist of removing leaves on the bunches level. Generally carried out from the end of June, leaf-thinning is an “a la carte”, on-demand operation, according to the development of foliage and weather conditions : light leaf-thinning when the weather is hot to avoid burning the bunches, more widespread in case of nice, mild weather, always leaving a “protecting cap” to protect the berries from direct sun rays.
Leaf-thinning on the morning side provides more light and aeration to the bunches, boosting an even ripeness, avoiding the hot rays of the afternoon.
Removing the secondary shoots
Mainly concerning Cabernet-Sauvignon and Sauvignon blancs in our vineyards, this delicate process consists of removing the secondary buds and shoots growing on the main branches. Non-fruit bearing, they burn the plant energy and their leaves bear a lower level of photosynthesis. Their suppression allows a better ripeness of the fruits.
At the end of July, the “veraison” – moment of the ripening process when the colour of the berries changes, particularly visible on the black grape varieties – is under way in all our Dourthe vineyards, while at different stages according to the variety. Veraison on the Merlot grapes is early, followed a few days later by Cabernets and Petit Verdot.
An old saying assures that “August makes the juice”. The vineyard is quieter, we let Nature perform its act while the team is preparing the harvest in the cellar. But this is another story…