Looking out of my window onto a bright Bristol spring day, I am aware that this is always an exciting but anxious time of the year for vineyard owners wherever they are in the world.
In the Southern Hemisphere, summer is already drawing to a close and, depending on the local climate and the weather this year, the grape harvest is either imminent, has just started or, in the warmest areas, has already finished. For those in the last category, worrying about the vagaries of the weather are behind them and they are now sitting smugly, watching the grapes gently ferment in the winery. The next group, those that have started to harvest, are fervently hoping that they can complete the job before any rain – or worse, hail – arrives that might damage the grapes still left on the vines. In the coolest areas, harvest won’t yet have started and growers there have the key decision on whether to leave the grapes on the vine a week or two longer so that they will ripen just that bit more or whether to pick now and avoid any chance of the weather turning for the worse.
In the Northern Hemisphere, things for growers at this time of year are equally problematic; the challenges here are different, although they still surround the unpredictable weather. Spring is the time of the year when the first buds appear on the vines from which the new shoots will grow. A warm spring, like the one we are currently enjoying, will encourage budding but growers will worry about late frosts which can kill off the young shoots. This would reduce considerably the quantity of grapes produced later in the year. On the other hand, a cooler spring would mean that the whole process is delayed so that the grapes may not have time to ripen for an autumn harvest.
So, if you pick up a glass of wine this weekend, think about how it is made and thank those whose hard work and judgement results in your pleasure.