I can’t think of a better time of year than the summer solstice in a Bordeaux vineyard. And right now, I am completely jealous of some friends now who are holidaying at the Paradise Rescued property and winery in Cardan Bordeaux. And who keep sending me lots of lovely photos taken from the kitchen terrace looking west across our Merlot vineyard at the endless late evening sunsets behind the old farmhouse.
By definition, the days are the longest in the year. And due to its westerly location within the European time zone, Bordeaux sunset time is close to 10pm every night. Late outdoor evenings with mid 20 C’s temperature are the norm. And often with cloudless skies.
But there is more going in the vineyard than just warm weather and nice sunsets. With maximum day light and warm sunshine, this is peak growing time in the vineyard. At this point of the seasonal cycle, the vine is growing at its maximum rate. From now on, the emphasis is on slowing plant growth and increasing fruit production. Green soft brittle shoots that have shot out from the buds at pruning time now start to lignify or turn into wood and turn brown in colour. Young fruit berries start to set a course towards becoming fruit to vinify.
The vines flowered in early June and the pollenated berries have rapidly grown from tiny peas into hard green grape berries. In a couple of weeks time, they will start to change colour (véraison) and the accumulated acid in each of them will peak and start to change into sugar as the fruit approaches harvest at the end of September. That acid / sugar balance will be critical to the success of the harvest and resultant wine.
Dependant on the weather, August in the Bordeaux vineyards is often viewed as the quietest month in the calendar as these changes progress. If the heat of summer develops into a risk of storms (or continues as in the case of summer 2018), the vineyard team must remain on alert to micro-treat the vineyard ahead of any serious rain. Although the rate of vine growth is slowing, there is still a risk of disease unless held under control. The team also needs to be on hand to manage any post storm damage and keep a continual watchful eye on the last year’s vintage in the winery.
Every month brings a different challenge in the vineyard cycle. To achieve the best results, the vineyard team has to be continually working with Mother Nature, who is always in control. With the Bordeaux vineyard Summer solstice now past, we can look forward to harvesting the fruits of our labour.
Paradise Rescued is the 2016 International Business Award Silver Stevie winner for Small Budget Marketing Campaign. Read more of the Paradise Rescued story – its Mission Vision and Passion – in David Stannard’s books: From Cabbage Patch to Cabernet Franc and It’s Not About the Dirt.