If you live in the Western Cape you probably drive by blocks of vineyard every single day. For a few months out of the year they are just sticks, whereas the rest of the year it may just look like a sea of green leaves. Sometimes there may be a team of workers on foot busy in a block, other times it may be a lone tractor driving down the rows.

But what is actually going on in the vineyard all year? Is it as simple as sticks >>> leaves >>> grapes >>> wine?

Like anything worth dedicating oneself to, the life cycle of a vine is complex and fascinating. There are decisions being made every single day to not only help the current years crop, but the overall health and success of each vine for vintages to come.

To take you along on the journey of the vines for a growing season we’d like to introduce you to Sugar and Spice.

Sugar is a 21 year old Sauvignon Blanc vine planted on one of the highest slopes on the farm in our registered single vineyard Sugarbush block. Sugar is located 8 rows from the lower northeast corner of the block, 5 vines up.

Spice is also 21 years old but is a Syrah vine located in the sandy soil on the flatter, lower, opposite side of the dam. Spice is 10 rows down from the northeast corner and 6 vines up.

We’ll be following both throughout the growing season, into harvest and back into winter of 2022.

After one of the coldest and wettest winters in recent history, the first critical stage in the growing cycle is finally upon us although a few weeks late: bud break.

The increase in sunshine and warmer temps causes water and stored nutrients to begin flowing up the vines trunk towards dormant buds. The buds begin to swell creating small, hard nodules on the vine. Until finally, they burst.

Small green grape leaves find their way to the sunshine and the growing season is officially underway. In just a few weeks, these tiny leaves will be long shoots, filled with full size leaves. During this time, shoots can grow as much as 2.5cm per day.

Terroir, cultivar, and microclimates can all affect the timing of these different stages across the farm. With Sugar, we see quite a few more buds already shooting for the sky. This Sauvignon Blanc block is normally ripe and ready to be picked around early March.

Spice on the other hand is a bit slower with waking up. There are only a few buds that have broken free at this stage. However, this block of Syrah is normally only ripe and ready to be harvested around early/mid April.

At this very moment, the vineyards are still sparse. However, in just 10 more days they will be exploding with long, energy-producing shoots as they prepare for the next step: flowering.

We’ll check back in with Sugar and Spice soon.

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