May in the Vineyard: Time to Bloom

Every time we hear jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair play her hit tune called “Bloom,” our thoughts immediately turn to what happens in vineyards across the Northern Hemisphere during the month of May.

Bunches of tiny flower buds, about the size of pinheads, appear about a month-and-a-half following bud break. The precise time they appear is based in part on weather during the springtime and in part on the specific grape variety.

They’re easy to miss, not only because of their size, but also because they’re essentially the same color as the vine’s young leaves — but they’re critically important in the vine’s development during the growing season ahead.

Take a close look at a cluster, and you’ll see the flowers open over a period of several days. Each flower is self-pollinating, carrying both female (egg) and male (pollen) organs. Daytime temperatures around 80 degrees are optimal for pollination.

Grape growers and winemakers hope for moderate temperatures, limited rain and no wind during this critical period. High temps, downpours and ultra-windy days can interfere with fruiting, as only the fertilized flowers will develop into grapes.

Toward the end of this period, the colorful bloom of the green ground cover will fade and be tilled into the soil to provide the vines with mulch and nutrients. And as the next phase of the process approaches, the first mildew prevention spray may be applied.

It’s an exciting time in the vineyards, and those tiny flecks of green you see as you drive by a vineyard are a promising sign.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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