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In the crystal, which sings, Pour, pour the wine! Pour again and always, That I can forget the sadness of days...

Dans le cristal qui chante, verse, verse le vin ! verse encore et toujours, que je puisse oublier la tristesse des jours...

Émile Nelligan (La romance du vin -1899)

 

The Cycle of the vine

The Adventures of a small grain of grape

 

Of all the stages of the vegetative cycle of the vine, the most important is the starting of the vegetation towards the end of April because, when starting early, the little grain of grape has all the chances to reach an optimal maturation before the autumn does settle, and the coldness of winter. It is considered that it takes at least 160 days without freezing so that the little grain of grape can become large and almost ripe; conditions which one finds only in the southwest regions of Quebec. This is why it is so difficult to make a good red wine in Quebec; the red grapes needing a greater maturity than the white grapes. One thus needs very ripe red grains so that the must used for the making of the red wine is not too acid and sweet enough. On the other hand, the white wine will be excellent even if the white grapes are not fully ripe; the rate of acidity of the white wine being a little higher than that of the red.

But take notice! An early start increases the risks of a problem due to late frosts. This is why a stretch of water such as the lake of Two-Mountains is so beneficial to us at the beginning of May. As the dominant cold winds come us from the west or the north and that we are located at the south of the lake, we almost always avoid the late frosts of May or the early autumnal freezes of October thus lengthening the vegetative season.

 

In June, it is the fecundation of the flowers and the birth of the little grain of grape; flowering must be fast and especially homogeneous, if not the little grape which will develop thereafter will not reach its level of optimal maturity at the same time as his small cousins on the other bunches. A good flowering requires one or two weeks of beautiful dry and windy weather. To help us with the pollination of the flowers, we count mainly on the assistance of bees, which come to gather nectar on the flowers from the vines. With this intention, we have moved an immense hive of wild bees near the vines, which had elected residence in the trunk of a large ash, which died in our wooded part on top of the river. Indeed, bees can make up to half a kilometre to find the nectar of the flowers. By having a hive near the rows of vine, we thus support the birth of a greater number of little grapes possible.


At the end of August, beginning of September, the maturation of the grape requires heat, much of sun and very little rain. It is the most important phase in the adventure of the grain of grape; if all goes well, little grape will become big! A maturation which trails in length fault of good weather or the rainy days will support the development of parasites and fungus diseases such as grey rot which could kill the grain of grape and thus put an end to its adventure. The autumn is also the season which marks the beginning of the aoûtement phase (starting from the end of August, the term comes from 'août', the month of august in French); it is the phase where the green stems of the vine are transformed into wood, like the bark of the trees. Too short autumns could not make it possible for the soft stems of the vines to become bark, which would weaken them and would make them vulnerable to cold from winter. Cutting the shoots during the summer, the green vegetation that does not bare any fruits also facilitates the aoûtement, the vine having less stems to transform into wood.

Finally at the beginning of October, the grain of grape becomes full ripe and abounds in sugar... Soon, the vine grower will gather it. It is the beginning of the grape harvest, which must preferably be held in dry weather to avoid the dilution of the sugars in the grapes. Indeed, when it rains, the vine is gorged with water by rebound the grain of grape then contains more water. The must thus obtained is slightly diluted and will have a lesser sugar concentration. A wine grape that is ripe contains roughly 80 % of water. But it is not unusual in the southwest regions of Quebec to harvest grapes having up to 21, 22 Brix, i.e. 21 to 22% of sugar in the grape. One measures the sugar rate before the grape is harvested with a refractometer; a small apparatus in which one deposits a juice sample and, by refraction, obtains a measurement rather right of the sweetened potential of the grain of grape (percentage of sugar). The experienced vine grower can also have a good idea of the sugar rate and acidity of the grape by tasting it. After the grape harvest, one makes a measurement by density of the must to obtain the sugar potential to be transformed into alcohol. Note that all sugar is not necessarily transformed into alcohol; the sweet wines, the dry wines and the ice wines all contain different residual sugar levels...

Certain wine growers add sugar when the grapes are not ripe enough; it is what one calls chaptalization. It is sometimes what the wine growers do when the autumns are not sunny enough and that the grape does not become perfectly ripe, or when one cultivates the vine under less lenient climates of Quebec. The problem is often double since these immature grapes are also too acid. One must then deacidize the must by using calcium carbonate or other deacidizing products. However, this remains certain; it takes good grapes to make good wine... And one must have the good type of vines to make good grapes... And there is the climate and the soil! We can only congratulate the vine growers of Quebec for their courage and who, in spite of unfavourable climatic conditions for vine growing, succeed in making out wines which make Quebec more and more famous! I raise my glass quite high. À la vôtre! Bottoms up! Cento anni! Beifall! Cheers!...

The grains of grapes being used for the making of the white wine are then crushed (one separates the grains from the bunch), and are pressed. The juice collected, called must, is then put in a tank where it will ferment gently thanks to yeasts. The yeasts can be natural, (they are on the bloom, the skin of the grape) or the wine maker can decide to add his own combination, which will give a particular type of wine; more or less alcoholic, soft or fruity, very dry, dry or sweet. Certain yeasts have a capacity of transformation of alcohol into sugar which can go up to 18% of alcohol, others will stop at 11%, thus giving softer wines with a higher residual sugar level. In combination of yeasts, the winemaker can use different techniques to stop fermentation therefore preventing all of the sugars contained in the must to be transformed into alcohol; thermal shock or the use of sulphites are methods often used…

For the red wine, the grapes are crushed and put in tanks with a certain percentage of the bunch, the carrying stem and stalks, and ferment for a period determined by the winemaker; approximately one to two weeks according to the color and the type of wine being made. The skins thus macerating in the must give to the red wine its color; of a pale ruby red to the heavy red which stains. It will also give its olfactory or tannic qualities. Several techniques are used by the winemaker, which will give wines different textures and taste; carbonic maceration or oxidation in an opened tank. The must, which is now wine, is then pressed and transferred in a tank where fermentation will be completed.

Certain variety of grapes have the characteristic of having the skin red, violet or black, but give a amber colour juice or a juice without any particular color when pressed; it is the case of the grapes from the Pinot Noir vines. Indeed, the skin of the grape Pinot Noir is dark, almost black, but the juice which runs out at the time of the crushing and pressing is rather of neutral color and can be used to make out white wines, like the Blanc de Noir made in Champagne when they are pressed like white grapes, or some of the famous the red wines of Burgundy if the winemaker lets the black skins macerate in the must to give colour. The more one leaves the skin in contact with must, the more the wine will be of a darker color. A bleeding is carried out to make rosé wines; the winemaker uses the same technique as to make red wine but he ' bleeds ' the tank after a few hours or days of maceration while letting run out the juice when the color rosé is obtained; this must will then continue to ferment in another tank to give a rosé wine.

Before the arrival of winter, the vitis vinefera are cut very short then are ridged to protect the vine which, otherwise, would not resist our rigorous winters. If the little grain of grape wants to be born the following year, it is necessary to protect the stock carrying life. Indeed, the vitis varieties (such as the Pinot and Riesling) most rustic will see their buds (primary and secondary) dying or being seriously damaged by the cold from -18, -20 C (according to studies made in the state of New York). If the primary and secondary buds do not resist during the winter, the vine will never bare fruits and could die, because the fruit-bearing buds are on the vine shoots of the previous year. As our winters are cold and that mercury goes down easily to -30 C during the winter in the southwest regions of Quebec, it is imperative to protect these Vitis varieties. To protect our Noble type of vines, we use straw mixed with sheep manure (of our ovine herd) which we cover with a bank of soil of approximately 25 cm.

But the adventure of the little grain of grape is not yet finished. Certain grains of grape are selected for the making of ice wine. (The grape harvest of ice wine, this winter 2005/2006, was carried out on January the 2nd and 3rd whereas mercury oscillated between -10 and -12 C). The shivering grains in the nets are collected, and are crushed and pressed outside whereas they are always kept frozen. The grains of grape then take the texture of a ' very dense slush', which is holding together like a block of slushy snow, because the water inside the grape is always frozen, but not the sugars. This cluster of very sweet ice is then pressed outside in the cold; some extremely concentrated juice then run out of the press and is collected. The frozen grains of grape give a must, which makes approximately 40% in sugar; density being established in the neighbourhoods of 1174 on the densimeter... Approximately six times more grains of grape are needed to make a single bottle of ice wine!


It is the end of the adventure of the little grain of grape… Towards the end of winter, the vines, which do not have winter protection, are cut to bring them back to a more reasonable proportion and to limit the number of future bunches of grapes on the stocks. We preserve only 12 to 25 bunches of grapes by vines, according to the variety; the less there are bunches of grapes on the stocks, the greater is the sugar concentration in bays. A vine gives on average a maximum of one litre of must; with one litre of must one makes one bottle of wine of 750 ml; the winemaker needs the equivalent of six vines to make only one bottle of ice wine. This is why it is so expensive...

In spring at the beginning of April, the winemaker removes the winter protection of the vines. The hillock of ground just as the sheep manure mixed with straw are then removed, the manure being used to fertilize the vine for the season. It will be hidden later in the ground at the time of the many mechanical weeding with the grubber. If the cold of winter did not kill the stocks and if the buds were not damaged too much by the removal of the winter protection, the adventure of the little grain of grape will start again...


The cycle of the vine (short version)

 

Every year the vine develops according to the seasons, and follows a vegetative cycle that can be broken up into several stages.

 

· The tears


In mid-April, the sap starts to appear at the end of the stems, which were cut towards the end of the winter; they are called the tears. According to the soil and the type of control of the vine chosen, each stock will lose a few litres of sap.

· Débourrement

Towards the beginning May the blossoming of the buds occurs; it is the débourrement. It starts earlier for type of vines like Baco Noir and Chardonnay, and later for the Sauvignon Blanc, whereas that of Pinot Noir occurs between the two extremes.


· The inflorescence


Following the period of growth of the branches and the sheets, the foliage develop, then appear small bunches with tiny buttons which will grow bigger and become flowers.


· The Flowering


The flowers appear towards mid-June and last from ten to twenty days during which the vine is very vulnerable to freezing.


· The nouaison

Each flower fertilized becomes a grape; the proportion of fertilized flowers depends much on type of vine and the assistance of the pollinating insects like the bees.

 

 

 

· The growth


During the summer, each grape grows in volume without any important change in its chemical composition, if not slight increase in its acidity.


 

· Ripening and maturation

In general, in mid-August the skin of the grape starts to change color: of green dark, it becomes, according to type of vine, greenish white, gilded, orange or purplish. It is the beginning of the maturation itself, during which the grain will continue to grow bigger. The maturity of the grain of grape corresponds to the balance between the maximum output of sugar which it can contain versus the degree of acidity. Maturation lasts until October.

 

· Aoûtement

The vine shoots start to become hard like bark as the vine starts to eliminate water in the tissues for winter preparation; i.e. the soft and flexible stems are transformed gradually into wood.


· Grape harvest

It is the gathering of the bunches of grape which the winemaker presses thereafter to extract the juice called must.


· Late grape harvest; Passerillage


If the winemaker decides to delay the grape harvest, he then notices the desiccation process (loss of a part of the water which the grain contains) of the grape and, consequently, an increase in the sugar rate. Indeed, when the grape becomes very ripe, the exchanges cease between the grains of grapes and the vine. The skin of the grape becomes permeable, and the water contained in the grape starts to evaporate. This process is know as the passerillage on foot.


· Harvest of ice grains of grape

If the winemaker leaves the grains of grape on the vine and then harvests them at temperatures varying between -10 C and -12 C, he concentrates even more the sugars because, under the effect of freezing, water present inside the grape is frozen solid. When the winemaker presses these grains of ice in the cold winter air, he then obtains a super concentrated must with roughly 40% sugar content...

 

Home     •  Our Vineyard •  Genealogy •   Opening hours     •  Our Wines •  Wines Tasting •   Find us
Version française •  Growing vines in Quebec   •   Type of vines   •   The Cycle of the vine •  Photos •  Contact-us  •  Bergerie sur le Lac