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

The wine harvest has begun in Rioja Alta

In this video, you can see at a winery located in Rioja Alta, how they have started the harvest of the white grapes and doing an analysis of the grape must to check the sugar and therefore the alcohol content of the soon to be wine.  The sugar content is measured using a handheld refractometer.  When held to the light, you can see the approximate Brix of sugar that will give a predictive amount of Alcohol once this must has undergone fermentation. This is also judged and monitored by the Consejo Regulador in order to qualify each and every batch that comes into the winery. They are there measuring the amount of grapes in kilos per hectare and then qualifying it based on the Brix level.

The grapes that mature fastest tend to be the white grapes and therefore, the harvest generally begins with the white grapes and within a few days, the red grapes depending on their maturity and location will be picked next.

These grapes will be pressed first, the first pressing, a light pressing that will release the first juice will be set aside to be made into a higher quality wine and the second pressing will be used for the the next best wine.  This is common practice in most all wineries.

 

Family owned Herencia Martinez- Alvarez Bodega in Rioja Alta- Cosechero/Bodegero

An unexpected visit to Fuenmayor, La Rioja, to pick up some wine from a local vineyard spurred a visit to this country winery; the owner showed us everything from the press onward in his production, and he even allowed us to taste the 2010 harvest that was still fermenting. This experience was such a stark contrast to that of Marqués de Cáceres, a huge well-known international winery in Cenicero, but visits like these are what I live for.  It’s in this way one really gets to see what people who live, eat, drink, and sleep wine are like.

If you would like to suggest ideas or like to see more of one thing or another, please e-mail your suggestions to me at sacreddropseeker@gmail.com. Thanks for watching!