April in the vineyard is a watershed moment. The winter pruning is over and this year’s canes are tied down onto the fruiting wires. Along those canes, the tiny buds that will produce shoots and flowers and fruit are beginning to stir from dormancy. It is a time of great anticipation and excitement, looking forward to the new season’s growth, but also one of anxiety where we keep a very close eye on the weather and especially the temperatures. The tender, new shoots are easily damaged by late Spring frosts.
This April’s mini-heatwave proved a distinct blessing for the vines. Up till then, they had seemed very reluctant to show any signs of life following the cold and wet Spring. The dramatic, if brief, turnaround in temperature gave them a much needed boost (we recorded 28C on one memorable day) and the buds were quick to respond. Those on the Chardonnays started to burst into life on the 18th with the Pinot Noirs and Pinot Meuniers following shortly after on the 21st – a good two to three weeks later than 2017, but at that time we had an unusually warm beginning to the season. That was both a boon and a curse, though, as a hard, late air-frost caught the early growth despite our best efforts to ward off the freeze with frost candles burning in the rows.
One thing we have noticed this year, is that the budburst is much more evenly spread across all the blocks of vines – Chardonnays tend to get away earlier, but this April the Pinots are in general closer behind. Hopefully, that will mean greater consistency of growth, fruit set and ripening through the season.
Last year’s harvest is bottled and waiting to go and this year’s is full of promise as the new crop comes to life!