I have always been a fan of wine, but I was never nor am I now an expert on the subject. One could say though that after almost a year in Metlika I know much more than before. I have recently spoken with a few winemakers and in combination with personal experience and a bit of research I am here to write about the most important part of making wine, which in my opinion is not processing the grapes but tending the vineyards and ensuring you have a good grape that can make good wine.
What amazes me with tending vineyards is that it is much more complicated and much more work than i actually expected. At the start of my EVS project I had the chance to gather grapes a couple of times which I found very fun but as the year progressed I realised that it takes much more than just gathering the grapes to make wine. If we count the gathering of the grapes as the end of a season for a vineyard which is in early september then the start of the season would be around February with the cutting of the vines which I already wrote about here: http://mcmetlika.si/metlikian-vineyards/ At the time i thought that after cutting the vines you kind of let nature take it’s course and you show up again in the summer to gather the produce. Of course that thought was a bit naive and us any process of cultivation there is a process of using pesticides and ferilizers, but tending a vineyard has a few extra ones.
So a year in a vineyard starts with the cutting of the last years brunches in order to allow the plant to grow again in the spring. Then the first small step is to tie the cut brunch or brunches into the vineyards wires in order to help the plant grow in the desired direction. The brunch then will sprout smaller brunches and leafs which also need to be contained or maybe even taken away if the plant is overgrown. Around this period is when the fertilization and anti-pesticide process take place. Then when the plant starts producing the grapes the farmers have to make sure that the plant is not “too heavy” with produce. One of the key things as I understand it when it comes to vineyards is to make sure that the plants have enough food or juices to produce proper grapes and while it might be good for a plant to produce a lot of fruit too much fruit might be a problem. The next step is to ensure that the grapes get sun so sometimes the farmers need to take away leafs from the plant, but again there is a fine line that needs to be considered since leaves are the food provider of the plant and also protect the grapes from the birds. One of the final steps to be applied before harvest is to cover the vines with protective net, which is also a good tool against birds. Then an indicator of when the grapes should be harvested is the sugar levels of the fruit. So before harvesting samples are being taken in order to make sure the grapes are ripe enough.
This pretty much covers the yearlt process of tending a vineyard and is the key to produsing good wine. Good grapes are the raw material of wine and therefore the basis for its success. Of course good grapes don’t equal good wine sinjce the winemaking process is also quite tricky as well.