The Four Seasons in the Vineyard

Winter Works

Winter marks the beginning of the work cycle in the vines. The proper development of the plant and grapes depends on the pruning method.

Pruning is the most fundamental work in the vineyard. Its purpose is to eliminate vine shoots (wood and stems of the vine), and selecting those buds that will bear shoots and fruit for the following harvest.

After being pruned the vines are tied-up. This consists in fastening the spared branches to wires stretched between stakes to prevent the vine from developing in an unruly way. In the past, tying-up, also called « the tie » was done with humidified strands of reed the vine grower tied around the branches. Nowadays sisal twine is used instead of reeds and special pliers facilitate the placing of the ties. The aim of tying-up is to shape and support the vines to help them grow properly but also to facilitate subsequent work in the vineyard.

Spring Works

By spring, it is time to plough. This is machine work, the plough turns over the earth to remove weeds, break-up and aerate the soil.

The vines are desuckered by hand, usually in mid-May, to remove non fruitful shoots and encourage the vines to focus their energies on the fruit-bearing buds.

Trellising starts in May-June when the vegetation is the most active. Trellising consists in taming the shoots by winding them through wires placed on the ground, that are then lifted and attached two by two using hooks or staples.

Summer Works

Pinching back is an operation carried out about three times a year depending on the growth of the vines: in June, after trellising, in July and in August. Pinching back consists in removing the tips of shoots that continue to grow throughout the summer. It is intended to temporarily stop the development of the vine and concentrate the sap in the productive part of the plant that is the grapes.

Autumn Works

The harvest is the moment every winegrower has been waiting for. Various tasks are offered to the seasonal workers:

• the picker cuts the bunches in the vine rows;

• the « loader » empties the buckets from the pickers into the harvest bins;

• the press operator empties the harvest bins into the press and monitors the pressing, the juice flow and transfer to stainless-steel vats.

During the harvest, the whole region is abuzz as the work is crucial and monopolizes a huge workforce. Even more abuzz than other regions since Champagne grapes must be pressed immediately after picking to prevent the onset of fermentation and the juice from turning the colour of a red wine.