Year Cycle of Seasons in a Vineyard

June on Long Island
Summer is a grand time for touring wineries, learning more about how wines are made first hand, and walking in the vineyards, looking over the grapes as they darken and grow. Just what do these grapes tell you about the wines they will create, and how do they differ from variety to variety?

Most winemakers will tell you that most of the character of the wine comes from the raw material - the grapes themselves. If the winemaker receives shoddy grapes, they might coax a reasonable flavor out of them, but no amount of aging or fermenting will turn those grapes into something special. On the other hand, give a winemaker a stellar crop of grapes, and the winemaker has the potential for something truly spectacular.

All wine grapes start out green. The grapes require good drainage - some of the most famous grapes, from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, grow in piles of rocks. Minerals are very important for grape vines. Nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, magnesium, and calcium all play a part in grape development.

Grape vines need long, warm summers, to allow the grapes to develop slowly and properly. Autumns need to be dry, without hail or heavy rain. Vines typicaly need 1000 days of an average of 50F temperature, with a total of 1300 - 1500 hours of sunshine to create wine-capable grapes. In addition, the vines need around 27" of rain, and minimal frost.

Pinot Noir in autumn
If the grapes have a good season, then the key indicator of how a grape will taste is its variety. Variety is the single strongest influence on grape flavor. Smaller varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, create a concentrated flavor. Larger varieties, such as Pinot Noir, create a much lighter flavor. The skin itself contains most of the flavor of the grape, so the thickness of the skin also affects the flavor.

The location the grape is grown in also affects how its flavors develop. Grapes grown in warmer climates tend to develop fruity and rich flavors, while cooler-area grapes might taste more grassy or herby. This is because the cooler-climate grapes in essence do not ripen fully, and do not have the full growth cycle to work with.

So, the next time you wander around the vineyard after sampling a winery's offerings, take a close look at those grapes! What you see will determine how good the wines you taste next year can truly be!

Vineyard Photos Season by Season

Winemaking Main Page

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.