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Tuscan Vineyards Need Watching Year-Round

Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer is surveying her vines for clues about what they need next year.

Posted: Nov 24, 2008 6:09pm ET

By Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer

Posted by Barbara Kronenberg-Widmer

Once harvest is completed, you might think that the work in the vineyards comes to a standstill. The grapes are all in the cellar, and we can't start pruning the vines after they have lost all their leaves and after their sap has retreated back into the roots and they go into "hibernation." Depending on the vegetation cycle of each year, this happens somewhere between November and December—January, at the latest. We tend to delay the moment of pruning the vines as much as possible in order to minimize the potential risk of frost damage. The later you cut the later the plants restart the vegetation cycle.

So now we have a lot of time to repair broken trellis poles and wires, to remove dead vines and rocks from the vineyards and to carry out all the landscaping work on the estates that we could not get done during the year.

I still tour all the vineyards each week to understand all the information the plants are still providing me. It will help me transform these lessons into our work for the next vintage year.

What does this mean? If we observe the plants very carefully, particularly the leaves, we can understand the health and nutrient balance of the vines, based on the size of the leaves, the color of the leaves, the rim structure of the leaves and, finally, by when the leaves fall off the plant. As a result, we can project which vineyards will need which kind of fertilizer next year—or which won't need any at all. A good example of this is how we understand the nitrogen content of the soil in each vineyard: If the leaves in a vineyard are still green until late autumn, we can cut out nitrogen fertilization in the following year but should consider phosphorus and potassium.

All the young wines of the 2008 vintage are in the barriques now, and we finished all the cleaning of the fermentation cellar. Now we're in the middle of the "last" harvest for this year—the harvest of the olives. More about that next week.


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