In contrast to the lush growth in summer, the vineyard shrivels to the bone in winter. The vines drop their leaves, revealing brittle arms and crisp stems. To the untrained eye, it may appear dark.

However, important processes such as bud and root growth, pruning, pest and disease control and many others take place. The writer Paul Theroux once said that winter is a season of rest and preparation. It captures the mood of the winemakers during the cold, dark days that make many of us cranky.

Rosehall Run Rosehall Run Vineyards is located in Prince Edward County, Canada / Photo courtesy of Rosehall Run.

After the fall harvest, the vines begin to mature for the next growing season. Their root systems then develop to absorb nutrients during a late growth spurt, says Dan Sullivan, a winemaker and co-founder of Rosehall Run Vineyards in Prince Edward County, Canada.

The next step is hibernation. This is the state in which perennial plants are found, such as. B., occur at the end of their annual cycle.

As temperatures drop and days become shorter, active vegetative growth decreases. The vines go through deep sleep phases. The ecodormancy, caused by the progressive decline of the sun, initiates the endodormancy, the paradoxical sleeping version of the vine.

Just as people hate going straight from shorts to a jacket, it’s best for vines to gradually acclimate to winter, Sullivan says.


This rest period is essential for recovery. The slower metabolism of the vine allows it to accumulate carbohydrates, or desacclimate, during the transition to spring. Think of him as a wintering grizzly for the Pinot Noir and Riesling vines.

Climate change is changing weather conditions and creating new challenges. Much has been said about the summer heat and drought, but winters have changed as well.

The length of the dormancy period and the temperature variations depend on the latitude of the region. Most Vitis vinifera or common vines grow where there are seasonal transitions in both hemispheres. While vines have some tolerance to cold, generally down to -5°F, vineyards in northern regions such as Canada and Hokkaido, Japan, face greater challenges, particularly to polar vortices.

Rapidly dropping temperatures and a severe frost are testing the determination of vines and growers, Sullivan says. It buries its buds in the ground for the next season.

This allows the vines to be adequately insulated in temperatures below 20°F, he says. Snow is also a good insulator.

Wild climate fluctuations also threaten native vines, says Moritz Haidle, a winemaker at the family-owned Weingut Karl Haidle in Württemberg, Germany.

If the vine warms up in the middle of winter, and the vine thinks spring is beginning, and there is sap in its veins, [and] then it cools down again, it is dangerous, he says.

Dragonette The most important consideration when pruning in winter is preventing the spread of grape diseases, says Brandon Sparks-Gillis, Dragonette / Photo : Brandon Sparks-Gillis

When the vines are full of blackberries, the farmers go to the fields to prune. Haidle waits until the last leaf disappears, often in early January, to limit the growth of the previous year.

Pruning maintains vineyard health, determines future yields, and shapes vines for growth and structure formation, such as priory shrubs, as opposed to the vertical shoot position common in California.

Bare branches also make pruning easier.

The most important consideration when pruning in winter is preventing the spread of stem diseases on the vines, says Brandon Sparks-Gillis, co-owner and co-winemaker of Dragonette Cellars in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Like many growers, Dragonetka has to fight devastating diseases, such as eutypa decline, a fungal infection that gradually kills the plant. Symptomatic or dead vines are easier to spot in winter. However, gardeners should be particularly careful when pruning in windy and rainy weather, as the spores can spread to fresh cuttings.

Spring brings its own pruning problems.

In Santa Barbara County, our two main risks to the vineyard are late frosts and high winds during bloom, Sparks-Gillis said.

His team mitigates these dangers by pruning at the end of winter. This delays budburst, the first green shoot to appear on the vine as temperatures rise. Frost damages tender buds and young leaves, which can reduce the farmer’s yield.

If budburst occurs later, harvest is delayed past peak summer temperatures, Sparks-Gillis explains, allowing the fruit to be harvested under cooler, more favorable conditions.

In winter, cooler temperatures also help suppress pest populations. Sparks-Gillis cites the historic drought between 2012 and 2017 as evidence of this.

During the… California’s dry, mild winters have been problematic because they haven’t kept the sniper population away, he says. As a result, their population increased and Pierce’s disease spread, causing great damage, especially in Sta. Rita Hills [American Wine Country].

Winery Karl Heidle Winery Karl Heidle is one of the oldest wineries in Remstal, Germany / Photo : Markus Medinger

Other winter services are specific to each region. In California, annual soil saturation is welcome from November to March. Precipitation replenishes aquifers and reservoirs, but it also cleans the soil, Sparks-Gillis says.

Winter rains are important in our region because they prevent the accumulation of salt in the soil, which is toxic to the vine a problem in years of drought, he says. If we have a lot of storms…. The soil will be cleaned and the next growing season will be less stressful.

According to Heidl, winter precipitation has also become more important for wetting the vineyards in Germany. Melting snow and rain now make up for a drier summer in Germany.

Climate change is changing weather conditions and creating new challenges. Much has been said about the summer heat and drought, but winters have changed as well. The impact of winter subsidies is worrying producers around the world.

The vegetarian rest is getting shorter due to the mild winters, Heidl said. This is one of the reasons why the harvest has started so early in recent years. It also increases the risk of late frost.

Sparks-Gillis noted greater variability during winter and throughout the growing season, with a trend toward warmer and drier conditions.

It’s alarming because of the toxicity of salt and the spread of Pierce’s disease, he says.

And so, if we love wine, we must learn to love winter.

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