Things are starting to get interesting!
Here we are in July updating you about June. A touch late, in true Nat style.
June was eventful, yet for the most part, uneventful, which is a paradoxical state that we vignerons like to live in. June is a crucial month for us as flowering usually falls in this unpredictable and sassy month. Lo and behold! It did. Flowering occurred over the last week in June and the first week in July.
The weather in the run up to flowering was gorgeous, it was warm and sunny, perhaps a little windier than we would have liked. And of course, we had some pretty heavy rain and a few stormy days and nights after flowering had begun. Since those few stormy evenings and heavy rainfall days we have had an excellent run of impeccable weather with some incredibly hot days; breaking the record for hottest day of the year yet again at 40.3°C in Suffolk. In the vineyard we have been typically reaching between 36°C and 38°C on the very hot days that we have had. Not an overly pleasant temperature to be working in the vineyard, but needs must, and Toby and cousin James have been battling the heatwave in the vineyard to get the important jobs done - including tucking in, wire lifting and clipping in with some shoot selection and leaf pulling on the side.
Coming back to flowering, the scenario we think we will end up with is some differences in ripeness of fruit. However, this is mainly isolated to select parcels of chardonnay. The reason for this is protracted flowering. Flowering occurred earlier than usual this year by about one week and it was the chardonnay that started to bloom first out of the varieties. When the rain came this reduced flowering efficiency and the vines were slowed down as a result. Flowers popping out on a single bunch would be further ahead than that of other flowers even in the same bunch in some cases that we have observed.
What does this mean?
As always, it depends. We will continue to observe this in the parcels that have “suffered” from protracted flowering and the weather will have a large bearing on how the fruit continues to develop and ripen leading up to harvesting. We could either end up doing two picks, but we think the difference will be marginal. Visually, at the moment, the difference of maturity looks more obvious as they are very different phenological stages.
A pinot noir inflorescence coming into bloom
What happens at flowering?
Once the flower caps (calyptra) have fallen off, the flower is exposed. The female part of the flower, the pistil, is at the centre of the flower where the ovary is housed, which contains two ovules each with an egg. There are five stamen structures extending out from the base of the flower, each presenting an anther, which is the male part of the flower and where pollen is found. There is some evidence to suggest that pollination may occur when the flowering caps are still on as opposed to the flower being exposed and thus removing the need for insect or wind pollination. Though, I am sure every little helps. Most commercial grapevines are hermaphrodite meaning that they can self pollinate as their flowers contain both male and female anatomy parts.
Once flowering (anthesis) has been initiated pollen tubes form in the pistil which extend from the surface to the ovules. Once pollinated, the movement of pollen grains down the pollen tubes to the ovules may or may not fertilise the egg. If you have successful flowering then the flower will “set”, referred to as fruit set. This is the beginning of fruit formation. From here, each fertilised flower will become a grape. They are very green, hard and very acidic at this point and certainly not ready for being made into wine. However, they do photosynthesise and contribute to the plants ability to make energy. A little interesting nugget for you.
Berry set in pinot noir
That’s enough geeky stuff for now. If you want to find out more feel free to get in touch. Onto July, but you’ll have to wait until Christmas for the next enthralling instalment, just kidding, you’ll get your next addition in August and I’ll update you on what has been going on in the vineyard.
Come and visit us!
Our cellar door is now open Wednesdays - Sundays, so if you're visiting the Farm Park, or just passing, you can pop in to try our wines, or enjoy a self-guided tour around the vineyard and then try our wines! These are available between 10am - 4pm and are £10pp.
Walk ins welcome or you can find out more and pre-book here.