As the days grow longer and warmer, grapevines all over the world come to life. Buds form on the vines and slowly begin to blossom. These delicate flowers last for just a few weeks, and then give way to small green grapes.
As summer progresses, these grapes ripen and are eventually harvested. Every wine producer has their own unique grapevine lifecycle that depends on the climate and soil of their region.
Some regions harvest their grapes late in the season, while others are among the first to bring in fresh grape harvests. In this article, we’ll explore the grapevine lifecycle in more detail and see how it differs from region to region.
By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the seasonal changes that grapevines undergo each year.
Grapevines: the basics
Grapevines are flowering plants that belong to the genus Vitis. There are over 60 different species of grapevines, but only a handful are used in wine production.
The grapevine lifecycle is dictated by the climate of its region. In cooler climates, grapevines need a longer growing season to ripen their fruit.
Conversely, grapevines in warmer climates can ripen their grapes faster and don’t require as long of a growing season.
Grapevines and the seasons
Depending on the grapevine’s location, it will experience different seasons at different times of the year.
In the Northern Hemisphere, grapevines typically blossom in late spring or early summer. The blossoms only last for a few weeks before they turn into small berries known as “grapes”.
It takes around three months for the grape to grow and ripen. Once the grape is fully ripened, it is ready to be harvested.
The grape harvest typically takes place in late summer or early fall. After the grape is harvested, it goes through a process of crushing and fermentation to become wine.
When do the vines blossom?
When a grapevine blossoms is dependent on the climate. In the Northern Hemisphere, grapevines typically blossom in late spring or early summer.
In the Southern Hemisphere, grapevines typically blossom in late summer or early fall. This is because the grapevine’s blooming cycle is influenced by the amount of daylight hours.
How long do the blossoms last?
The grapevine’s blooming cycle lasts for about two weeks. After that, the grapevine will start to produce grape berries.
When does the fruit come in?
The grape berries will mature and start to turn color in late summer or early fall. This is when grapevines in the Northern Hemisphere are harvested.
Grapevines in the Southern Hemisphere are harvested in late winter or early spring. The grapevine’s fruit will continue to ripen after it is picked.
When is it harvested?
The grapevine’s fruit is typically harvested between August and October in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the Southern Hemisphere, grapevines are harvested between February and April.
Grapevines are usually harvested by hand. A grape harvester will cut the grapevine’s fruit-bearing canes (known as “cordons”) and collect the grape clusters in a bin or box.
After the grapevines are harvested, the grape berries will be sorted and destemmed.
The grape berries will then be crushed and fermented.
How does this cycle change from region to region
As mentioned before, the climate of a grapevine’s region will dictate when it experiences each season.
In cooler climates, grapevines need a longer growing season to ripen their fruit. For example, grapes grown in Germany usually don’t ripen until October or November.
Conversely, grapevines in warmer climates can ripen their grapes faster and don’t require as long of a growing season. For example, grapevines in Australia can have their grape harvest as early as February.
Which region harvests last vs which region blossoms first?
Generally speaking, the Northern Hemisphere (Europe, Asia, and North America) will have their grape harvest later than the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, South America).
This is due to the fact that the Southern Hemisphere experiences opposite seasons than the Northern Hemisphere. So while it’s winter in Europe, it’s summer in Australia.
Similarly, the Southern Hemisphere will generally start their grapevine’s life cycle earlier than the Northern Hemisphere.
So while grapevines in Europe are just starting to bloom in April/May, grapevines in Australia are already being harvested in February/March.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule depending on the specific grape variety and region. For example, some grape varieties in Europe (such as Pinot Noir) are actually harvested before those same grape varieties in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is due to the fact that Pinot Noir is a grape variety that is particularly sensitive to daylight hours and reaches maturity earlier when grown in cooler climates like Europe.
While there might be some exceptions to the general rule, overall the grape harvest in the Northern Hemisphere will generally happen later than in the Southern Hemisphere.
A critical and delicate part of the winemaking
The lifecycle of a grapevine is an important part of the wine-making process. Far from just the downtime before the real work of wine-making starts, the growth cycle of the grapevine is crucial to the flavor, color, and aroma of the wine.
Making sure that the grapevines are healthy and producing high-quality grapes is the first step in making great wine.
The grapevine lifecycle starts with planting and ends with harvesting. In between, there is a lot of work that goes into taking care of the grapevines and ensuring that they produce the best grapes possible!
The great grapevine FAQ
While the guide above is a helpful starting point, there are still many grape growers and wine producers out there with questions about grapevines.
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions we get:
The grape harvest is when producers gather the ripened grapes from grapevines to make wine. The grape harvest typically takes place in late summer or early fall. Grape harvesting can be done by hand or machine, although most premium wines are still hand-picked.
The lifespan of a grapevine can vary greatly depending on the grape variety and the climate. Some grapevines have been known to live for over 100 years!
Grapevines are very resilient plants, however, they will eventually lose their fruit production and need to be replaced. grape growers will typically replant their grapevines every 15-20 years.
Grapevines generally need to be trimmed every year. However, some grape growers will only trim their grapevines every other year. It really depends on the grape variety and the climate.
Trimming grape vines is important because it helps the grapevine focus its energy on producing grape clusters. If grapevines are not trimmed, they will produce more leaves and fewer grapes.
After the grapevine has been trimmed, the grape clusters will begin to form. It takes about six weeks for the grape clusters to mature and turn from green to red (or white).
It takes about two years for a grapevine to mature and produce grapes. During that time, the grapevine will grow leaves, roots, and grape clusters.
Grapevines are typically harvested every year. Depending on the climate and the grape variety, grapevines may be harvested multiple times throughout the year.
After grapes are harvested, they go through a process of crushing and fermentation to become wine. The length of time that grapes ferment can vary depending on the type of grape and the type of wine being produced.
After the grape is harvested, it goes through a process of crushing and fermentation to become wine. This process can take several weeks to several months.
Harvesting grapevines is a delicate process that must be timed perfectly. The grapevines are usually harvested in the fall, after the grape has ripened on the vine.
During fermentation, the grape juice turns into alcohol. The wine is then aged in barrels for a period of time before it is bottled and sold.