When It Comes To Great Wines, What’s Left In The Vineyard Matters

Tuesday, 8 August, 2017
VinePair, Vicki Denig
Growing and harvesting more grapes means better wine, right? While no one would fault someone for having this belief, since the idea of more grapes seems it would mean there was a healthy and fertile growing season, which in turn should mean the grapes are delicious and therefore will make delicious wine, this is not quite true.

Contrary to popular belief, having more grapes doesn’t actually make for better wine. In fact, the amount-of-fruit-to-quality-of-fruit ratio works just the opposite; fewer grapes mean a better-quality final product. Sounds strange, right? One would naturally think that higher amounts of grapes would come from more- opportune growing conditions, leading way to better tasting, higher-quality wine, though the inverse is actually true.

Many steps of winemaking work the opposite of what you’d think, starting with the soil. When it comes to grape-growing, winemakers actually want their soils to be less than fertile. Give the vine too-ideal growing conditions (that is, abundant amounts of water and flawless soil components) and the vine will over-perform. Force the vine to struggle too much and the plant will begin to die. Finding the perfect balance between too fertile and not fertile enough is the first step to optimal grape growing.

Grapes on a vine are measured in a term called “yields.” Believe it or not, lower- yielding vines produce higher-quality grapes. Each vine has a certain amount of nutrients to provide the fruit it bears. When a vine becomes too efficient and produces an abundance of fruit, the same amount of nutrients still remains in the vine. Therefore, a vine with many grape clusters on it will be forced to distribute its nutrients among a larger amount of fruit, leaving the quality of each individual grape mediocre at best. When lesser amounts of fruit are found on a vine, the same amount of nutrients has fewer grapes to disperse to, and can therefore power up each little berry to its healthy and juicy potential.

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