The Seasons in the Vineyard

Winter: dormancy and pruning

Viñas invierno cava

After autumn, when the leaves of the vine have fallen, the rest phase begins. As the weather gets colder, the buds start a period of dormancy which lasts until the start of spring.

During this period, while the vine stops growing and can resist very low temperatures, the plant is pruned. This consists of removing certain shoots left from the previous season (which have turned woody and are now known as “canes”), thereby assisting the plant’s next phase of growth.

The number of new shoots that will grow on the vine in spring is determined by how many canes the pruner decides to leave. This, in turn, will establish the number of grape bunches that each vine will carry, thereby affecting the final total yield per hectare.

At the beginning of March in warm climates, and in the northern hemisphere, the vine starts to wake up from its winter dormancy, mobilise its reserves, and resume its activity. Sap starts to flow through the vine, oozing out through the pruning cuts. This is called the lloro (or bleeding).

Viñas invierno cava

Spring: bud break, pollination, fruit set

Vendimia cava

As temperatures rise, the vine starts to show the first signs of new growth in its buds. These already contain all the basic components that will become shoots, leaves, inflorescences (flower heads, future grape clusters) and tendrils (for climbing up the trellis), as well as buds that will produce new shoots the following year.

The buds swell until they open completely (bud break), producing the new season’s vine shoots, along with their leaves and tendrils, or leaves and inflorescences. The leaves and tendrils begin to unfurl, and the flower heads start to develop.

Grape varieties which will be used to make Cava such as Xarel·lo, Parellada, Trepat, Pinot Noir and Subirat Parent are the first to bud.

Once the flowers are fully developed, in late spring, they release their pollen to fertilise the ovules; those that are correctly fertilised will become grapes. This is a very important moment, because it determines the volume of the harvest; both low temperatures and wet weather can adversely affect this stage of the growth cycle.

Then comes the next stage, fruit set, which lasts for about two to three weeks after flowering. Fertilised ovules develop into seeds, and then a grape berry grows to protect those seeds. The fruit which is produced at the end of this process will remain until it is fully ripened.

Vendimia cava

Summer: veraison, harvest

Vendimia cava

As summer arrives, grapes can be seen on the vine, in their early stages of growth. At this point they are small and green, like peas; they still need time to develop into grapes as we know them.

In summer, the tasks in the vineyard include cutting back flowers and shoots that are infertile, and which may detract energy from the vine in the last few months before harvest. This helps the plant to concentrate its efforts on producing the best possible fruit.

The vines with more dense foliage are usually cut back: the basal leaves are removed, in order to improve the quality and health of the grape clusters by exposing them to more sunlight and improving air circulation.

This technique also improves the colour and aroma of the berries, and helps to achieve a more homogenous ripening throughout the whole vine. In addition, leaf removal facilitates hand-harvesting and increases the effectiveness of phytosanitary treatments.

As summer advances and the berries ripen, their colour changes in a process called veraison, during which the sugar and phenolic compounds develop, and the pigments responsible for the characteristic colour of each variety appear.

The dark varieties get their red or purple colour, and the white ones their yellow-green shade. Grape skins acquire a translucent appearance, becoming softer and more elastic, while the seeds reach their physiological maturity. This stage effectively marks the start of the countdown towards harvest.

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Macabeo are the first varieties to be harvested, as their sugar concentrates quickly and they reach their phenolic maturity.

Vendimia cava

Autumn: leaf fall, hibernation

Viñedo cava otoño

After the harvest, the vine is still active, but later it sheds its leaves again.

The vine stops producing chlorophyll, and the leaves turn from green to yellow, and then brown, drying and falling gradually throughout autumn, until in late November the plant is bare.

At this point, the vine breathes more slowly and the transpiration stops; in other words, it goes back into hibernation, and the whole growth cycle starts again.

Viñedo cava otoño
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