The work in the vineyards is constant for the Burgundy winegrower. A typical family-sized domaine (wine estate) will be 6-8 hectares (around 20 acres), representing 60,000 to 80,000 individual vines, often spread over many vineyards and several villages. Here is a taste of their working year in the vineyards.
Harvesting ends, the wines are quietly maturing in the cellars and the growers inspect their vineyards, identify vines that will needs replacing, work the soil between the vines and generally tidy-up the ground.
November – February
The long task of pruning by hand thousands of vines through the freezing cold winter when temperatures may fall to -15°C. The cuttings are burned as the growers’ progress down each row. Tractors continue to labour the soil – earthing-up the vines to protect the stump against the frosts.
Final pruning and the application of compost or manure ploughed into the vineyards.
Training, by hand, the vines onto the low trellis in early spring while working the vineyard with the tractor, and increasingly with a horse, to turn and weed the soil. Planting out new vines to replace those that were dug up in autumn. First buds appear on the vines.
As growth becomes more vigorous now, unwanted buds and suckers are removed and new shoots are trained between the wires.
As spring progresses into summer, there is more tractor work in the vineyard coupled with further training of the vine, which can grow at the rate of 10cm each night. Flowering usually happens mid-June when temperatures rise to 20°C. Spraying with natural copper sulphates begins to protect against mildew.
Summer sees tractors trimming the vine back to the one metre height of the trellis and, by hand, pinching out surplus bunches of grapes.
Trimming back continues and excess leaves are torn away to allow maximum sunshine to mature and ripen the grapes. Preparations begin in the winery for the harvest.
The harvest – the pinnacle of the winegrowers’ year. Most harvest by hand and then sort by hand either in the vineyard or back in the winery. All energy now is now focused on the winemaking.
After the vines have turned the most magical gold and brown the leaves fall and the cycle begins again.