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Vineyard journal, June 2022: Fruit Set

Last month was training time: our farmers set their vines up for success with careful canopy management. 

Vineyards are full grown at this point and if conditions are right, they’re ready to reproduce--it’s flower time.  All european cultivated winegrape varieties (most winegrapes we think of, like chardonnay or sangiovese) are hermaphroditic, which means they have both male and female flowers and can pollinate themselves.  That may sound straightforward, but flowering can be a precarious time in the vineyard.  Healthy grapes come from successful pollinations.

If it’s too windy or cold or wet, vines may drop flowers and grow ‘shattered’ bunches, missing fruit so empty stems next to full grapes give the impression of a partially broken window into the growing season.  Even if flowers make it through a hard month, grape ovaries might not get all the pollen they need to develop healthy fruit, and instead become small, hard, and green.  These bunches are called ‘hens and chicks’ in California.  Some farmers in warm, fertile regions like California appreciate the way they naturally reduce yield and remain high in acid through the growing season.  However, if too many berries are underdeveloped, growers have to cull bunches to keep their wines balanced.

Excessively fertile or fertilized soils inspire vines to reallocate resources and grow leaves instead of berries.  Wild grapevines evolved grapes to attract birds to carry their seed away to greener pastures from the top of crowded forests--if vines are too comfortable where they are, they focus on vegetation.  Good farmers maintain the delicate balance of soil fertility and stress to grow healthy fruit naturally--not too much or too little of anything.  If flowering is successful, fruit sets, and grape development begins.

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