Life in the Vineyard 1. Climate & Place

Let’s go with the first step of the series Life in the Vineyard, in where you can see Climate & Place as key factors for growing grapes. Ready to know where vines can grow and why?

In this video you’ll see how the specific site where a vine is planted affects the wine that is produced.

What are the requirements for a vine to grow?

Vines need a temperate climate (between 25ºF and 104ºF) with a long frost-free season. This is because under 25ºF there is a high risk for the plant to die, as the trunk can crack (and make the plant prone to infections) or, in the early spring, the frost can kill the buds. Also, above 104ºF the grapes shrink and dehydrate very quickly.

This conditions are typically found between 30º and 50º of latitude (in both hemispheres). There is a concordance between the main wine-producing areas and these latitudes. But not only this, the specific place is also important: the climate can have significant variations due to topographic characteristics like the prevailing winds or breezes, mountains and bodies of water as lakes, seas or oceans.

Key factors on vineyard to produce good and great wines

  • Sun: it allows the grapes to ripen. In the ripening process, the acids of the green fruit become sugar. You need ripe fruit with a proper amount of sugar to ferment the must into wine.
  • Water: this is a key factor in different stages of the plant. It’s good to have a good source of water when the vine is awakening from the winter, making leaves and flowers and swelling the little berries. After the berries are set, it’s important the plant goes under water stress, so they can concentrate the flavours and not get too diluted.
  • Temperature swings: the ideal situation is when the weather is sunny and warm during the day and cool at night. This ongoing cycle allows the plant to ripen and evolve during the day and refresh at night, preserving the aromas.
  • Soil: it’s important as it acts as a support for the plant and as a water regulator. As said before, the vine should go underwater stress but also have a water reservoir. To act like this, the ideal soil has big particles (like sand and rocks) that allow the water to drain and little particles (like clay) that retain water. Another factor about the quality of the soil is the color itself as white soils reflect more light from the sun and helps in the ripening process. This is very important in places where the amount of sun hours is under the optimum.

So, when all these factors combined, you’ve got the ideal site to plant a vine.

Vine cycle

  • Winter: below 50ºF, vines are dormant. This happens between December and March in the Northern Hemisphere and 6 months apart in Southern Hemisphere (June – September). The vine is just a trunk, with no leaves, flowers or berries.
  • Early Spring (April in NH and October in SH): when the temperatures reach 50ºF, there is the bleed and the bud-break, which is a period in where the spurs begin to drip sap and the little buds appear.
  • Spring and Early Summer (May-June in NH and November-December in SH): When the temperatures are between 63ºF and 68ºF, it’s time for plant development. The shoots lengthen, the flowers set and little berries appear. At this point, everything is ready to begin the swelling and ripening process of the fruit.
  • Summer (July in NH and January in SH): during the hottest days is when the berries swell and begin to change their color from an early green to a mature yellow, rose, red or blue. This process is called veraison.
  • Late Summer and Fall (September-October in NH and March-April in SH): when the winemakers decide the fruit is at its optimum point of ripening, they harvest.
  • Fall: after the harvest, the vine is done for the year. The leaves change their color and fall and, as the temperatures go down again, the vine goes dormant. This happens around November or December in the NH or around May-June in the SH.

Last note: I’ve separated this post in the 3 aspects, as they are easier to manage. So, the most important aspects that will affect the taste of the wine because of 3 variables:

 Life in the Vineyard: Climate and Place

Life in the Vineyard: Climate and Place in What VINO Learning About Wine


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