Seasons of the Vine in La Rioja

A single wine estate, such as Finca La Emperatriz, is beautiful, especially when the clouds roll in. The colors of nature naturally come forward and create this beautiful contrast.  We are currently in the time of year, while unpredictable lately, goes the saying, “April showers, bring May flowers!”

In this case, the month of April, in La Rioja brought the much needed rain, especially important at this period of time for the growth of the vine. At the end of January to the end of February, the pruning was done and the old branches/canes were removed. This was done to optimize the production potential of the grape vine. As Finca La Emperatriz is located at the outer most edge of Rioja Baja at an altitude of about 570 meters above sea level, the weather is cooler here and is influenced not only by the Continental but the Atlantic and Mediterranean winds that converge here.  This altitude, weather and rocky soil causes the vines to bud later than the rest of Rioja Alta.

Taking this into consideration, this is also an advantage due to climate change. As the weather throughout Europe and the rest of the world, goes up, locations in higher altitudes and generally cooler climates will benefit from a cooler summer than other wineries located in areas such as Rioja Baja. Right now, you can see the differences in growth states of the vine.

Right now, it is fascinating to see the differences not only in trellis style but in where the vines are located around the estate. We are currently experiencing 4 different stages of growth at the winery as of 25 of April, 2012 and 5 different stages as of May 2, 2012.

Dormant Bud Crying-  Stage 0

Dormant Bud Crying- Stage 0

Stage 0: Dormant

The buds are closed and there is no indication of growth. In this image, we have just pruned it and it is “crying” and the sap has begun to flow through the vine and begins to come out of the cuts where we have pruned it. The buds are almost not apparent.

Swollen Bud and Bud Break- Stage 2

Swollen Bud and Bud Break– Stage 1 and  2

Stage 1: Bud Swelling

The buds on the vines in Goblet or Bush style, a very traditional trellis system in La Rioja, are either dormant or just now starting to swell.Bud Burst/ Bud Break- Stage 2

Stage 2: Bud Break- Bud Burst

This is when the leaves from the buds start to swell and emerge, still maintaining a slightly rounded shape. In the above image you get a chance to see bud swelling and bud break. The Bud Break or bud Burst is on the top right of the image above.

Here in this image, you can clearly see the leaves starting to come forward out of Bud Break/Bud Burst. It is somewhat in Stage 2 and 3.

Leaf Emergence- Stage 3

Stage 3: Leaf Emergence

Leaves are now recognizable and the shoots are starting to photosynthesize. Here you can see they are starting to open up.

Stage 4: Shoot Growth
1 to 3 inch shoots with 1 to 3 small leaves at right angles to the stemMore leaves become apparent as the shoot elongates. At this point, it is very important that the temperature does not fall below freezing. Any frost at this point could potentially jeopardize the crop yield.

The vines furthest from the River Oja are already starting to enter the 4th stage, which is called Shoot Growth.


Stage 5: Flower Cluster Emergence

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

–          4 to 8 inch shoots with 3 to 6 leaves there is also flower cluster emergence.

Others in more clay like soils are actually already into Stage 5 where the clusters are starting to show.   I will have to go out into the vineyard one more time so I can upload the picture. Stay tuned!

Written by April Hennig of www.sacreddrop.com.

http://www.about.me/aprilyaphennig

Working on a Vineyard

Finca La Emperatriz

I work in Rioja Alta for a winery called Bodegas La Emperatriz. Bodegas La Emperatriz is a beautiful winery located in the border of Rioja Alta between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Haro. As it is outside of Logroño, it takes about 35-45 minutes to drive out there but the drive out there is beautiful and every day I pass two storks that have made their home on the top of an old smoke stack right outside of Najera.

Old Smoke Stack with Storks

As I work in marketing, it is my job to work in Social Media, Media Planning, Market Planning and Analysis, Product Management, Advertising, Public Relations…name it, I do it. Interestingly enough, I was brought on initially to work in Exportation. I work with customers overseas and as the orders come in, I process them and work with our production team and make sure we get the orders out on time and with the appropriate paperwork. Sometimes, the paperwork can be demanding and extremely time consuming, leaving very little time to do any marketing but that is what makes it fun. I really do enjoy the changes in rhythm. I am never doing the same thing every day.

Some days, I go out in the vineyards or to the winery and take pictures that we can later use for our customers or for marketing purposes. I also get a chance to work in the vineyard and in the laboratory with the head winemaker and vigneron. I really enjoy my work and love this region. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to work.

One day, I was out in the vineyard and thought it might be nice to share with you the annual growth cycle of grapevines here at Finca La Emperatriz.  In general, it begins with the pruning at the end of February which leads to the beginning of bud break and culminates with leaf fall in autumn followed by winter dormancy.  I will explain the process as we go and perhaps I can share a thing or two with you.

If you have any questions, please let me know at sacreddropseeker@gmail.com. Thanks for joining me today at the Sacred Drop Channel.