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Bud Break is Upon Us

Budbreak in Ribera del Duero

Bud break is here!

Bud break? What do you mean by “bud break”? Bud break is the time of year when the small buds on the previously dormant vines begin to swell with sap and nutrients, whereby pushing forth the new tendril vines and small leaves starting the busiest eight months of the winemaker’s year. Depending on the variety of grape vine, the region’s median temperature and the intensity of the prior winter, bud break can take place anywhere from early March to the middle of May when temperatures reach approximately 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit).

However, the greatest anxiety that haunts a winemaker is not the beginning of bud break, but the end. If the buds pop out too early, due to a warm spell during the winter, a quick freeze can destroy much of the new growth leaving the vineyard with a greatly reduced yield in the year to come. If we consider how unstable and unpredictable the weather can be, you never really know when a “freak’ frost will leave a vineyard in a lamentable situation. Hence, to help prevent this from happening, regions which typically run the risk of a late frost can postpone the pruning of the previous year’s shoots till later in the winter, impeding the buds from getting enough nutrients to “break” early. In fact, if you look at some regions, you’ll see the task of pruning doesn’t even start until the winter is almost over. The winemaker’s logic is to hedge his bets so that the vine will not lose out to the frost, but instead, will still have time to mature fully before autumn.

As I was up in Ribera del Duero region this past weekend, it was great to see the sun shining down slowly warming the earth from its summer frost. As the temperature slowly increases, first buds start to break open, revealing the new leaves that will suck in the sunlight to feed the grapes for the year’s vintage. Not to get sappy or anything, but it’s really amazing how the sun and earth combine to aid the vine in producing a grape full of sugar and fruit flavors. When alter your perspective a bit, you can understand how the ancients thought wine was the nectar of the Gods.

Stay tuned as I keep you updated on the coming stages of this year’s harvest. Next step: the flowering!

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz