With the green of early summer verdantly crowding around us, it is easy to forget the weather of the winter. Drinking and enjoying wine with a friend or savoring it with dinner can be such an immediate experience. Detecting aromas, appreciating flavors and textures, admiring the color and beauty of it, we may overlook the fact that the wine in our glass came to us from vines in vineyards.
Vines and vineyards fall under the influence of many things, including the whim of Mother Nature. It is Mother Nature’s vagaries that remind us that winemaking is at its heart an agricultural endeavor.
Think back on the strange and peculiar winter of 2017. A cycle of intensely cold days were followed by unseasonably warm ones, which were followed by periods of mild temperatures. Grape vines, like fruit trees, require periods of cold to go dormant. Imagine dormancy as draining pipes for winter. When you know you will be away for awhile, you drain the pipes so that they do not explode when a deep freeze comes. If the sap is still present in the vine and a deep freeze occurs, the vines can “explode” as a pipe would. Or, early buds may be frozen resulting in crop loss.
The 70-degree days in January and February kept the vines from going dormant. Then, for three days in mid-March the temperatures went down to 16 and barely rose above freezing. Habersham Vineyards fought the cold with wind machines, windmills with 18’ long blades on a 30’ tower. The machines and the staff worked night and day, pushing back against the cold.
The final report? Habersham lost 25% of its Chardonnay crop, 15% of its Chambourcin, and 20% of its Merlot from bud mortality. Fortunately, no vines were lost.
The weather and the reduction in harvest are an anticipated part of the wine making process, which requires flexibility and creativity to work with these “unknowns”. Oftentimes, the outcome is an unanticipated, happy surprise.
The wine maker makes his plan. The company has its goals. The vineyard manager and staff do their best, but the final product is always a cooperative venture with Mother Nature.
For more information about the vines and wines of Habersham Vineyard & Winery, visit the tasting room in Helen, or click on the Our Vineyards tab above.
Cheers to Mother Nature!