Behind the mesmerizing beauty of a plant about to bloom lies the physiological activity—latent at first, then active—that encourages the development of its reproductive organs.
In the grapevine’s case, inflorescences appear on the previous year's buds, announcing that the plant is about to bloom. Flowering is followed by a succession of events—fruit set, berry growth and fruit maturation—that culminate in the harvest.
Bearing in mind the conditions, characteristics and key events of flowering and fruit set, we'll examine how an incident during the development of this stage in the grapevine's growth cycle can have a decisive impact on the harvest:
- In the calendar of the grapevine's life cycle, flowering and fruit set take place between May and June in the northern hemisphere and between November and December in the southern hemisphere. During flowering, the plant requires certain conditions, namely: temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius, plenty of sunlight, and dry weather. Any changes in these conditions can affect pollination and bring about a delay in fruit set.
Vineyards at L'Aranyó, owned by Familia Torres, in full flowering phase.
Our L’Aranyó estate is situated in the area of Juneda, in the heart of the Les Garrigues region (DO Costers del Segre) at about 450 m above sea level. With a typically continental and dry climate, little coastal influence, and marked by high levels of sunlight, these vines coexist with low rainfall, although persistent fog is present until the end of winter.
Flowering in these vineyards usually begins in early June, and occurs for 10-15 days, although it can vary depending on the weather.
- From flower to grape: fruit set. Fruit set is a form of metamorphosis, the moment when the flower transforms into fruit and becomes a grape. However, not every flower is destined to become fruit, and the vine sheds its unfertilized flowers after fruit set. Sometimes a significant number of flowers are not pollinated. This is known as grape shatter or coulure and can result in lower yields.
Flower in full fruit set phase at the l’Aranyó vineyard. Vine of the Querol grape variety.
The fruit set is the phase immediately after flowering, and does not have a duration in itself. The vines grown in the vineyards of l'Aranyó (DO Costers del Segre) belong to the Querol, Syrah, Garnacha Tinta And Tempranillo varieties, all of them used since 2012 to make our Purgatori wine.
- Likewise, if berries fail to develop properly, they might end up seedless, which affects their growth, the result being tiny grapes. This is known as millerandage and, like grape shatter, it affects vine yields and may also cause complications in the rate of maturation. However, on rare occasions a little bit of millerandage may actually be desirable, because seedless berries can be very sweet.
This is the time when the young grapes need to stay strong and healthy. They will grow until veraison steeps the vineyards in delicate straw yellow and gold, in green, deep violet or rich crimson, with nature's wise and age-old goal of attracting birds to eat the grapes and thus spread its seeds. Natural engineering at its very best.