A Spring Thing…

In so many ways, Spring is a time of new beginnings and refocusing of energies.

With the arrival of Spring, bud break in the vineyard marks the transition from winter’s quiet dormancy to that unique awakening which begins another growing season.

Here's the vine before shoot thinning. Note that the shoots near the head of the vine and the end of the vine are crowded and bunched up. Photo / caption credit: winemakermag.com.
Here's the vine before shoot thinning. Note that the shoots near the head of the vine and the end of the vine are crowded and bunched up. Photo / caption credit: winemakermag.com.
As dormant buds push forth shoots, one of the most important vineyard tasks becomes that of shoot thinning, a process whereby selected vine shoots are removed in order to concentrate the vine’s energies into those desired remaining shoots which have been left on the vine.

Other benefits of shoot thinning include improved air flow among the clusters aiding in prevention of disease, and the creation of spatial openings for filtered light to better hit clusters thus promoting better color development and uniform ripening.

The same vine after shoot thinning. It may not look totally distinct, but note the sun flecking inside the canopy is much better after thinning. The idea here is to give each cluster a bit of niche space to grow, hang and ripen without being nested up with other clusters (which can shade the fruit and cause off flavors). Photo / caption credit: winemakermag.com.
The same vine after shoot thinning. It may not look totally distinct, but note the sun flecking inside the canopy is much better after thinning. The idea here is to give each cluster a bit of niche space to grow, hang and ripen without being nested up with other clusters (which can shade the fruit and cause off flavors). Photo / caption credit: winemakermag.com.
Though all of this may sound like easy work, shoot thinning demands trained hands and a lot of informed decision-making: is the shoot growing in a wrong direction, for example, down toward the ground? Is it fruitless? Which shoots are competing for growing space? And, which shoots have the potential to function as next year’s spur position?

As you might imagine, manual shoot thinning can be time and labor intensive and vineyard managers may need to hire additional help to accomplish it – especially considering that sometimes, depending upon weather and if additional buds push shoots after the first thinning pass, shoot thinning may need to be done twice…Yikes !

As if vineyard maintenance, seasonal care, pruning, vine training, nutrient management, planting, grafting, irrigation, weed control weren’t enough to worry about … now we need to find the right team players for a second round of shoot thinning???

In the end, it’s all about keeping the vine in balance. That is to say, the vine will happily produce more shoots than it can support with quality fruit. The extra, unwanted shoots steal energy and nutrients from the vine. Through shoot thinning, the vine’s energy and nutrients are redirected to provide only for those shoots selected during the thinning process to remain on the vine.

From vineyard to cellar, there are many decisions along the way that impact the Quality vs Quantity debate, but, as has been said many times… good wine begins in the vineyard.

Three Italian Whites That Get It Right

Three Italian Whites That Get It Right

As Spring makes its appearance where I like to walk along Frog Hollow Road, yellow flowers bloom, tractors cough awake from their winter rest, the season’s first bicyclists spin past coloring the landscape with bright, eye-catching outfits.

Spring also brings with it a gradual shift from hearty cold weather fare to lighter warm weather eating.

italian-white-barberani-pra-casaIn anticipation of summer’s bounty, mealtimes al fresco and leisurely aperitifs on the terrace, I recently road-tested a field of Italian whites: here are three that will not fail to appear on my warm weather wine list 😉

A Casa Falanghina 2007

Produced from 100% Falanghina grown in soil hosting deposits of sandstone and clay, vinified in stainless steel. This Campanian white shows aromatics of apple, pear, pineapple and papaya with traces of licorice and mint on the finish, vibrant acidity and good structure. A superb partner to shell fish or seafood – served either alone or in pasta or risotto – classic caprese salad, grilled vegetables, poultry, red or white pizza. $$.

Pra Soave Classico 2009

This 100% Garganega Soave hails from 30 year old vineyards and is vinified in stainless steel. With spectacular aromatics and super articulation, this Veneto white exudes terroir and personality showing honeydew melon, apple, pear, and flowers underscored by delicious minerality. Finishes with subtle whispers of citrus and almond. You’ll want this bottle close at hand wherever and whenever you find yourself with a picnic basket in hand: pair it with chicken or potato salad, dishes that feature eggs or cream such as classic quiche, savory pastry –Greek spanikopita will be a certain winner – grilled vegetables, certainly pasta primavera and, of course, seafood. This wine is a great entrée to Italian wines for lovers of French or West Coast Pinot Gris. $.

Barberani Orvieto Classico Superiore Castagnole 2009

A blend of typical Umbrian varietals – Procanico, Verdello, Grechetto, Malvasia, Drupeggio, (and, I believe, a splash of Chardonnay) – this Orvieto from Barberani is grown in distinctively chalky soil. Aromas of fresh hay, lime, and minerals are followed by flavors of pear, apple and lemon that rise with smokey minerality on a lively palate. Concludes with grace notes of almond and basil. A massively refreshing and harmonic wine that pleases with its natural softness and good structure. Fish, poultry, light pastas – try a satisfying plate of capellini with almond basil pesto – and vegetarian dishes will all rock with this wine, but this bottle is so full of nuance and class that it will play a good solo paired with elegant summer salads. $.

Note: A Casa, Pra, Barberani … imported by Vinifera Imports, Ltd., Ronkonkoma, NY