The first mild weather in March gradually awakens the vines. It is the beginning of a new vegetative cycle. The sap rises in the branches and flows through the scars left by pruning. The vine is said to be “weeping“.
The buds generally appear at the end of March and beginning of April. This is called budburst (because they burst and throw off their buds). They are then very sensitive to morning frosts. This is followed by a series of spring works, called “green works”.
Disbudding, which consists of eliminating useless buds (called “gourmands”) that risk diverting the sap from the fruiting buds.
Raising, which consists of raising the shoots by attaching them to the wires. This will allow the vine to have a better exposure to the sun.
Trellising, which consists of separating the branches and allows the bunches to be untangled. They are thus better aerated and better exposed for optimal ripening (to avoid rotting).
And finally, the trimming (also called “summer pruning”) which will last until the harvest. Its objective is to contain the growth of the vegetation.
The weather conditions in spring determine the time of flowering. The flowers generally appear at the beginning of June, when temperatures are around 20°. This is a crucial moment in the vine’s cycle because the quality of the flowering will also determine the quality of the harvest.
In July, the flowers give way to the berries. This is known as the fruit set. The branches stop growing. The berries will grow throughout the summer.
About 6 to 8 weeks after flowering, the berries change colour. This is the veraison. Some will take on purplish hues, for Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and others yellow, for Chardonnay.
The ripening of the grapes begins. According to the saying, the harvest takes place about 100 days after flowering. But for the last 10 years, we have been closer to 90 days. Samples are taken regularly to check the sugar and acidity levels, about twice a week from mid-August until the harvest. When the perfect balance between these two parameters is reached, the harvest can begin.
The Champagne harvest generally takes place in the second half of September (nowadays august).
In Champagne, the grape harvests are compulsory by hand because the champagne wine must be produced exclusively from the pulp of the grape. The grapes must therefore be picked intact and whole. They must arrive at the press without having undergone any maceration. The colouring matter in the grape skins must not have escaped before pressing. One of the difficulties lies in obtaining a white wine from black grapes.
The pressing time is therefore relatively long: about 3.5 hours for 4000 kgs.
Harvesting generally takes 9 to 10 days, due to the very short time of optimal maturity of the grapes. Each one cuts between 600 and 900 kgs per day for a total that varies between 60,000 and 70,000 kgs. This is a range because the quota of the right to pick varies each year, as does the reserve that remains to be built up. This harvest allows us to produce between 380 and 450 hectolitres of grape juice.
After the harvest, the vine loses its leaves.
The winter is mainly devoted to pruning. This founding act conditions the development and evolution of the vines. Pruning will affect the vigour, fertility and maturity of the vine. Pruning begins as soon as the leaves fall and stops from mid-December to mid-January, in order to respect the plant’s winter rest. It will continue until the end of March.
The first role of pruning is to ensure the best possible circulation of sap towards the fruiting buds. Indeed, the sap must circulate in such a way as to feed all the buds uniformly. Pruning also gives the vine its shape and prepares it for future green harvesting in the spring.