Grapevines have been flowering throughout the Barossa over the past couple of weeks, setting themselves up to produce that glorious fruit we make into wine.
While every stage of the grapevine’s annual life cycle is vital to its ongoing health and wellbeing, there are certain stages that play a critical role in determining both the quality and quantity of the upcoming harvest. Flowering is one of those stages.
During flowering, which takes place about six to ten weeks after the initial spring budburst, clusters of tiny flowers appear on the inflorescence, or pre-formed bunch. Pollination and fertilisation take place, setting up the berries for the coming growing season. Grapevines are hermaphrodites, having both male and female flower parts, so are able to self-pollinate with the help of the wind, with insects also playing a minor role in making sure the deed is done.
It appears the gods are happy. The vineyards are pretty as a picture right now, and so far, so, so good.
The flowers themselves are hardly showy. They’re small and pretty inconspicuous but, along with their delicate yet somewhat insidious perfume, a whole bunch of little clusters is easily enough to attract a passing insect or two to assist with pollination.
The smell of grapevine flowers, which comes from the pollen, not the petals like most flowers, is quite unique and has defied the description of many a winemaker. It’s sort of green and herbal, but slightly sweet and sickly with a touch of dried flowers and honey and an almost cosmetic note.
Both physiological and environmental conditions can impact the number of flowers that will form into fruit. Fine, mild weather with minimal wind will normally result in healthy, even fruit-set but excessive heat or cold, wind, rain or hail can damage the delicate flowers and prevent fertilisation, reducing the number of berries the vine will produce.
This year, the weather’s been pretty sympathetic, apart from a bit of rain on some of the later flowering varieties. It shouldn’t have too much impact unless we get much more. It appears the gods are happy. The vineyards are as pretty as a picture right now, and so far, so, so good.