Terroirs and vines/ The vineyard: a land shaped by Man
A wine-grower’s job is to tend the vines. They are in charge of winter trimming and all the other necessary tasks. Most tasks are performed manually, and several hundred hours of work are required for each hectare.
Climatic conditions can either bring forward or delay the growth of the vines. Wine-growers must constantly adjust their calendars to accommodate any changes in the weather.
The viticulture permit to handle the development of plants. It includes several operations, realized by the wine-grower to obtain a good harvest and insure the sustainability of plants.
Among the tasks that need carrying out, pruning is crucial. The quality of the harvest depends on how skilled and meticulous the pruning is. Vine shoots are pruned so that buds that will become fruits can be selected. Pruning determines how the plant will develop and thrive.
This step begins in November, right after the leaves have started to fall, and stops from mid-December to mid-January, as plants need to rest in winter. It resumes later and is finished by the end of March.
When pruning is over, it is time to tie up the vines. It is done by hand. The aim is to tie the canes to a horizontal wire.
The canes are fixed to the supporting wire and attached with paper-covered ties or some other biodegradable fastening. These canes will bear the new shoots and they must be fastened properly to prevent the shoots from growing in all directions.
De-budding and Lifting
In May, the wine-grower makes the de-budding and the lifting. Secondary shoots that are growing on old stems, and which divert the sap from main buds, are removed.
Again, this is a manual task that requires several passings and requires a judgment call from the wine-grower.
Lifting takes place by the end of May, when the shoots are growing. The purpose is to lift the wires and thus lift the foliage of the vines. This guides the vine upwards while supporting the weight of long shoots.
Vertical trellising determines the growing of the vine. It also creates a space to walk between the rows. Lifting is a difficult process because the shoots are not all the same length and they naturally grow upwards.
Vine trellising takes place in June. Sprigs are separated and tied with wires and staples so they can remain in their initial lay-out. The process prevents leaves from being too packed together. They catch more sun and benefit from better airing, thus avoiding excessive humidity and rot.
The task is crucial for vines, as the high density of the vine patches translates into dense foliage. The task can only be performed manually and is time-consuming.
Trimming is « summer pruning ». It begins at the end of June or the beginning of July, before or after blossoming, and lasts until grape-harvest. The task is performed at least twice with a tractor.
Trimming also includes « ecoeurage » or « emaillage », which refers to the removal of malignant regrowth. It also includes stripping, which improves the thinning of grapes and is good for the ripening process.
In Champagne, trimming is essential and prevents too much growth.
After monitoring how the grapes have developed, the date of the harvest is determined based on sugar and acidity content in the grapes. The two need to be the same.
To comply with the Champagne AOC mission statement, the harvest is undertaken manually. It is still deemed traditional, as the grapes are treated with the same respect as they were in the 18th century.
The grape-harvest lasts for about 3 weeks. This is due to the short span of time when the grapes are at their best. It is worth noting that most Champagne vines ripen at about the same time.