Vine flowering: an event in the vineyard!
Every spring, in May or June, loads of pictures of vine flowers are posted on the social networks - and on vinegrowers' accounts in particular. It is because vine flowering is a real event for winegrowers. Here are some explanations.
Vinegrowing and global warming
May 23rd 2020: I am on a bike tour in the vineyard with local tourists and we stop to taste Crémant de Loire (a local sparkling wine) on the plot where the grapes - in this case, Chardonnay - have been produced. The vines are in full bloom, which is incredible and unprecedented at that date in the Loire Valley - a precocity that will go down in history. This is the reflection I had two years ago and yet, in 2022, it is the same observation and the same phenomenon happening, at the same time of the year. I often tell visitors that the vinegrowers are the first witnesses to climate change: they experience earlier and earlier harvests, rising alcohol levels in the wines, while acidity drops due to hot summer temperatures. Here is additional proof: in 2020 and 2022, the warm and dry April and May led to extremely early flowering of the vine. Vines in full bloom a week from the end of May: it was historic and unprecedented in the Loire valley in 2020. Yet, it is happening again this year: vines are flowering 3 weeks before the date still observed a few years ago. It is considered that harvest takes place around 100 days after flowering: this means that in the Loire Valley, the grapes intended for the production of sparkling wines will be ready to be harvested at the beginning of September. Perhaps even earlier, as the high summer temperatures we have now experienced for several years accelerate the ripening of the grapes and shortens this duration to 90 days. Could the Loire Valley vinegrowers start harvesting the last week of August? This would be exceptional in the area, but a fact that the winegrowers are beginning to seriously consider!
Perfect conditions for vine flowering
You may be surprised to learn that grapevines give flowers... Before there is a fruit, there is a flower, then pollination and fruit set. The vine produces tiny white flowers, of barely 2 millimeters long - so small that you have to look well behind the leaves on the vine to be able to see them. On the other hand, they are very fragrant flowers, which perfume the vineyard with a very particular smell at the time of full bloom. And as with all fruit trees, special conditions are needed for flowering and pollination to go well.
Nice and warm weather
What about insects?
Many people taking part in the wine tours I organise ask me if there are a lot of insects in the vineyard and if the vinegrowers are not bothered by the drop in the bee population. Indeed all kinds of insects can be seen: bees, ladybirds, spiders, earwigs... But you should know that the cultivated vine (Vitis Vinifera) does not need insects for its pollination since it is a hermaphrodite plant. Its flowers actually bear both male and female reproductive organs - stamens and pistil. Therefore the grapevines grown for the production of wine self-pollinate: pollination most often takes place within the flower itself, and all the vines are capable of producing grapes. A light breeze is sufficient for pollination. This does not prevent insects from coming to forage and enjoy the good smells of vine blossom!
If you too want to be able to see and smell vine flowers, I invite you to join me for a 'From vine to wine' tour in the vineyard. This complete wine experience will take you to the vineyard, where a guided walk will allow you to discover the vineyard landscapes of AOC Vouvray, Chenin Blanc - which is the only grape variety used to produce the wines of this appellation - and the work of the vinegrower throughout the year.