From farm to table
When a winemaker has painstakingly finished the year's harvest of the vineyard, and row upon row of vines stand empty and dark against the autumn sky, this is also the time for the vine to rest. Way up north and likewise down south, the sap retreats back into the stem and down into the root system to protect the vine from actually exploding, a bedtime signal and the start of nature's sleep cycle. In warm countries, the sap stays in the vine, but as the winemaker has carefully removed all the greenery from the branches, the vine still gets its much needed rest before the spring restarts the cycle.
During the autumn, after harvest, the wine farmer has cut back the vine so that only the branches that are to be retained remain, to focus growth on next year's shoots during the beginning of spring. The soil is often plowed and turned to provide increased oxygenation, and also to facilitate the uptake of rain- and snowfall by the soil to replenish the groundwater levels.
Now begins a sometimes uneven battle against temperature and humidity, against frost, fog, the uncertainty of sunshine, pests and a variety of other factors that can go wrong during all the growth phases that give rise to the finished grape bunch: the growth of foliage, budding, flowering, pollination, fruiting and "la verasion", when the grapes start to achieve their coloring.
During springtime, the farmer has a busy period, when any unwanted shoots must be pruned off, the vines must be tied up and secured and the soil must be taken care of through the addition of nutrients and aeration. A decision must be made as to whether the fields need to be sprayed with any pesticides or additives and, if so, with what, in the northern regions the acres may need to be irrigated or fires lit in the vineyards to drive away night frost and fog, which can otherwise damage both vines and fragile buds.
Once the bunches start to form, a selection is made concerning which fruit the winemaker chooses to invest in, the rest is removed so as not to waste valuable nutrition and sun. Leaves must be constantly cut to ensure energy is not wasted solely on the vine's own growth but is concentrated to the grapes; but it is a delicate balancing act to not remove too much of the foliage, there is always a risk of the grapes being burnt and shriveled by the sun's unforgiving rays.
During this time, the previous year's wines are bottled if this has not already been done or the current vintage is to be stored longer, the winery then needs to be scrubbed clean from floor to ceiling before the autumn's new winemaking commences.
Then comes a period during which the winegrower can no longer affect the outcome of the growing process, all hope now lies with the weather gods: the optimum is a little rain, a lot of sun and just enough wind, the perfect combination for sun-ripened grapes, viable vines and as few pests as possible. Finally, harvest time!
Harvesting five kilograms of grapes is a quick job for seasoned hands, this is often the size of the plastic boxes that are used and then stacked high on top of the trailer that take the grapes to the winery; and one hectare of land fills up many, many boxes!
The grapes are sorted, either mechanically or manually, so that any unripe or in some way or another infested grapes are removed, as well as leaves and any other debris that may have made it into the boxes.
Grapes for red wines are often crushed before being fermented into wine, while for whites they are often pressed, and the remaining juice is then allowed to ferment into the finished product.
Somewhere around here in the process, the clarification and filtration of the finished wine takes place, or does not, and some producers choose to do so before storage while others wait until after. The choices are simply guided by the winemaker's own thoughts and visions about the final wine and are highly individual.
The wine is now stored for a period of time, ranging from three months up to a few years (and there are probably wines that are on the left longer than that), to then be judged and bottled, before the final storage takes over, for those producers who believe that their wines should rest in the bottle for a period of time before reaching the shop shelf.
The final road to the end consumer can differ a lot nowadays, as today we increasingly choose to travel ourselves to producers and make our purchases on site. Some choose to go to a Border shop in northern Germany, others order online and have the wine delivered to their front door, some rely on knowledgeable wine merchants and well-stocked shops. Either way; from farm to table!