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  • Teresa Gomes

Why wines cries and other facts about common grape vines

This is a post about where the magic starts... the awakening of the vines in Portugal and getting to know Vitis viniferea (common grape vine) more closely.



How many times have you heard a winemaker say that wine is made in the vineyard? Without healthy grapes you cannot make quality wine. I typically categorize these reasons or factors into six parts and they are:

  1. Location

  2. Grape varieties

  3. Yeasts

  4. Malolactic fermentation

  5. Ageing

  6. Wine age


It’s the winemaker's decisions and actions in the cellar that influence your ability to enjoy various types or styles of wines even if they were all made from exactly the same grapes, from the same vineyard and harvested on the same day at the exact same time.


Therefore the importance of the quality of the raw material is crucial. Wine is an agricultural product. Making wine is agriculture and because of this, without good raw materials, there will be no decent wine, so everything does start in the vineyard.


Before I tell you what's going on in the vineyard right now, let me introduce you to the vine.


We produce wines from Vitis vinifera (another common spelling), the Latin name for the European vine originating in Iran. There are about 60 types of the Vitis species, including table grapes. Vitis viniferea wine production represents 90% of all vines planted.

Of the approximately 10,000 varieties, in Portugal we have about 250 grape varieties, with Fernão Pires (white) and Aragonez (red) being the most planted. Grown in countries with temperate climates, compatible with harmonious growth and development, the ambient temperature is at the base of its vegetative cycle of the vine.


After the harvest, and with the arrival of autumn and consequently colder days, the vine is no longer able to support its activity. The leaves turn yellow and fall off. Between the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, the vine enters its vegetative rest and will only come out of it when average temperatures rise again.

What will become the production of 2021 and the wines of this year are already underway. At this moment the vegetative cycle has already started over in Portugal.


The “waking up” begins with the “crying of the vine” and it happens in the last days of winter and represents the end of hibernation and the beginning of a new vegetative cycle. The vine is cut or pruned to lose the sap (to cry), and this phenomenon occurs when the soil temperature at 25 centimeters deep reaches around 10°C or 50°F.


After this stage, depending on the type of grape, the climatic conditions, the nature of the soil and the amount of substances it retains, the vine begins to blossom (budbreak).


From the North to the South of Portugal you can already see the bud of the vine swollen and in some cases opening with the first leaves to appear, such as in photo above taken last week in the Douro Valley.


Portugal continues to be a country of grape producers (winegrowers) and only a few transform them into wine. And this was the reality until the 1980s.


Today we have this idea that the owner of the vineyard makes the wine and is often the winemaker himself. But how many wines do we drink, that if it were not for the winegrowers, winemakers and well-known houses, wouldn't be able to make wine in large quantities because they didn't have enough raw material?


Remember that it is necessary to respect the vegetative cycle of the vine. Even before making a wine, you must have patience (and money), because between planting and obtaining grapes worthy of a first wine can take 3-5 years to produce.

During these first years the plant must strengthen the structure of its roots and develop the branches that must be strong enough to support the weight of the bunches that it will eventually produce. Besides that in the first years they may not even produce fruit immediately. The one who hurries to make wine is sorry.


As you can see, it’s a “who’s in charge” type of climate and the latitudes I learned in the Sommelier course back in 2001 - vines planted between 30º and 50º degrees in both hemispheres, are also undergoing changes, and widen especially towards the equator and up to 13º.

In addition to climate change, improving the reproduction of the vines by nurseries allows countries like England, Russia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Kazakhstan, South Korea, China and Japan to join the list of wine-producing countries.


Back in Portugal, after a rigorous winter with many days of cold and rain, the vines are there to give us their best fruit in a few months. And now, we wait.


Do you know any fun facts about Vitis viniferea, the common grape vine? Share them with me in the comments below.




Photo credits: IVDP


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