The vineyard is the wine and the wine is the vineyard: this is one of the many keys to understanding the vineyard and expresses its importance well. The planting of a new vineyard creates a small ecosystem in which factors such as grape variety, soil, microclimate and cultivation techniques must interact perfectly to achieve the best qualitative results. Let's discover together the elements that influence the life of the vineyard, and therefore the quality of the wine that reaches our glass.
We asked ourselves: what really happens in the vineyard? Here is a small guide to the qualitative factors that are worth knowing.
There are many factors that influence the quality of the vineyard. They are divided into:
1. Factors internal to the vineyard:
Grape variety and rootstock .
2. Factors external to the vineyard:
3. Cultivation techniques:
Pruning and training systems.
We analyze these three types of factors one by one, in a small glossary of the vineyard .
1. What is the grape variety?
The production of quality wines is closely linked to the choice of grape variety and rootstock. Not all vines have the same adaptability to different climatic and territorial conditions. Some grapes, such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, adapt perfectly in many different areas. Others are much more demanding to grow, such as Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir .
The vines can therefore be: autochthonous , i.e. born and cultivated in that specific area, or allochthonous , i.e. widespread in every continent where the vine grows (these are called " international " if the diffusion even exceeds the nation of origin).
1. What is rootstock?
The rootstock is a part of a plant (generally consisting only of the roots) that is grafted from a stem of another plant in order to obtain flowers or fruit. To avoid the ruthless action of phylloxera, the rootstock of the vines is almost always of American origin, even if in some countries (such as Chile and Argentina) cultivation is ungrafted, without the rootstock. Rarely, but this remains in some territories also in Italy.
2. Latitude and Altitude
Latitude and altitude are two crucial factors for viticulture: latitude is a geographical coordinate that indicates the distance from the Equator, while altitude measures the vertical distance from sea level. The starting point is that the vine is a demanding plant and requires specific climatic conditions, fearing the cold but also excessive heat.
In the northern hemisphere (the northern one), the vine grows best if it is between the 40th and 50th parallel of latitude, while in the southern hemisphere the best areas are concentrated in the band between the 30th and 40th parallel. Italy occupies a privileged position: the vineyards, here, are located mainly in the hills (60%) and in the mountains (8%), while 32% are in the plains.
2. Climate and temperature
The climate is another determining factor for the success of the harvest: rain, drought and hail affect wine production every year. To guarantee the elegance of the wine, and the quality in general, the temperatures must not be too high or too low (frosts, especially late ones, can compromise the development of the buds).
The fundamental element is the temperature range between night and day temperatures, because it allows the concentration of aromatic substances in the skin of the grapes, resulting in more intense and elegant aromas.
The vine does not require fertile soil, but instead prefers poor soil, which differs based on its composition. Limestone, marl, shale and clay are the most common components in viticultural soils.
Calcareous-marly soils give the wines compact and deep colours, intense and complex aromas, structure, low acidity, richness in ethyl alcohol and finesse.
The calcareous-arenaceous soil contains sand in a fair percentage and gives balanced wines with fine aromas, even if not always suitable for very long periods. aging. The wines obtained are ready to drink, fresh and fragrant.
Clayey soils are more suitable for growing black grapes. Soft, long-lived and high-quality wines are obtained: they retain the fertilizing elements and favor the nourishment of the vines.
Pruning is a very fascinating activity: it consists of a series of interventions carried out by the winemaker in the vineyard, on the plants. The objective is to qualitatively and quantitatively modify the way a plant bears fruit, give it shape and maintain it over time.
In winter pruning is carried out once ( dry pruning ), while in summer it is done a couple of times ( green pruning ). Dry pruning determines the number of buds that will give rise to the bunches: pruning is "short" if production is oriented towards high quality, or "long" if quantity is preferred. With green pruning, however, the plant is given shape, the shoots are cleaned and the leaves that prevent good ventilation of the bunches are eliminated.
3. Farming systems
Grape variety and pedoclimatic conditions impose choices regarding the cultivation system: excellent exposure of the leaves to the sun's rays must be guaranteed. The farming systems are various:
- Low sapling : used in southern Italy, Spain and the Rhone Valley. The vine is not tied to a support but is subjected to pruning that leaves few buds.
- Simple and double pergola : widespread in Trentino Alto Adige , it determines leaf development which shelters the bunches from the direct action of the sun.
- Guyot : most used system in Europe. The part of the shoot left on the plant from the previous year is eliminated, leaving only one fruiting shoot for the following year. It is a form of training with mixed pruning, reduced expansion, suitable for soils with poor fertility, tending to be dry, where the vine is in conditions of moderate development. It is characterized by having a trunk height that varies from 30 to 100 cm, on which a fruiting head is inserted, which is bent parallel to the ground in the direction of the row and a spur (of 1-2 buds) used to give the renewals for the following year. The vine shoots, which develop from the fruiting head (shoot), as well as the renewals, are tied to support wires above the shoot, which in turn are supported by poles of variable heights up to 2 metres.
- Spurred cordon : allows you to obtain a regular planting, guarantee a good balance of production, good exposure of the leaves and the possibility of mechanizing the harvest .