wine, oil, ratings the agricultural year
Click here in order to know the cycles of the vine and the olive tree.
January the vines are dormant and, on the branches, it is only just possible to detect of the buds which will open the following spring. During this phase, the vine is resistant to even very low temperatures, well below those normally experienced in Tuscany.
In this month, winter (or "dry") pruning is carried out, where the surplus branches produced by the plant the previous year are removed, leaving a set number of buds per plant. Two trimming methods are used: simple or double "Tuscan bow", where one or two "fruiting heads" with 6-7 buds each are left; or "cordon trained", where 4/6 short branches ("spurs"), one or two buds long, are left on a fixed horizontal branch. The latter method is used in the new vineyards.
The olive is an evergreen plant and therefore does not lose its leaves during the winter, although nearly all vegetative activity ceases.
In Tuscany, frost is the greatest danger at this time of year because, when temperatures fall below -5°C, the degree of damage to the olive trees increases the lower the temperature gets and the more delicate the vegetation.
The vine is still dormant.
Winter pruning continues. The pruned branches are raked together and taken to the top of the row where they are burned. Maintenance work is carried out on the support structures (stakes, lines, posts).
The winter rest continues and the danger from frost damage increases.
Spring is drawing near and the buds begin to "swell", preparing for budburst. After trimming, the branches on the vines subjected to the "Tuscan bow" method are bent downwards and tied to the line below. This is carried out in order to ensure the uniform development of future branches. Light manuring is also carried out during this month, using potassium fertilizers in particular. If the soil is suitable, work can begin on planting the "cuttings", i.e. the young vine plants grafted in the vineyards the previous summer. Any dead plants in the adult vineyards are also replaced and provided with suitable protection. Towards the end of the month, the rows are weeded in order to eliminate any competition from unwanted vegetation.
Spring is drawing near and the buds begin to "swell", preparing for budburst. After trimming, the branches on the vines subjected to the "Tuscan bow" method are bent downwards and tied to the line below. This is carried out in order to ensure the uniform development of future branches.
Light manuring is also carried out during this month, using potassium fertilizers in particular.
If the soil is suitable, work can begin on planting the "cuttings", i.e. the young vine plants grafted in the vineyards the previous summer.
Any dead plants in the adult vineyards are also replaced and provided with suitable protection.
Towards the end of the month, the rows are weeded in order to eliminate any competition from unwanted vegetation.
As the temperature rises, the vine finally wakes up from its winter rest, the buds open and the shoots begin to grow; the roots begin to absorb water and, from the cuts produced by the recent trimming, it is possible to see the so-called "root tears" which consist of raw sap which drips onto the soil.
At the end of this month, there is a danger of late frosts which can compromise the new shoots.
The bending of the branches is completed; in this phase it is necessary to look out for signs of the possible development of vine diseases.
The planting of "cuttings" continues.
The olive buds open and it is possible to observe the "wood" buds, which will become branches, and the "flower" buds, which will produce the inflorescence and then the fruits.
The shoots are now growing well and the flowering of the vines, of which at first there is just an inkling, now begins to develop. The vine produces its fruits on that year's branches, therefore, they come from "mixed" buds, i.e. buds which produce both branches and fruits.
Non fruit bearing shoots develop on the lower part of the vine and these have to be removed: this is called "suckering".
Pesticide treatments are carried out to protect the vine against fungal parasites.
The soil is tilled by means of superficial harrowing to eliminate weeds and bury the fertilizer; in some vineyards "grassing" is carried out. With this method, the earth is not tilled, the weeds are periodically cut and the remains left on the soil.
The trees are in full vegetative development: the "wood" buds are open and the new shoots grow more or less intensely depending on the vigour of the plant and the fertility of the soil; the "flower" buds prepare for blooming, which begins at the end of the month.
Trimming is normally completed.
Normally flowering occurs in the first week of the month, followed by "fruit set" which consists of the formation of the small berries following the fertilization of the flowers.
The new vine shoots continue to grow very quickly and have to be brought from a horizontal or slanting position to an erect one in order to maximize the exposure to the sun's rays and to allow for the mechanical equipment to pass.
This is initially carried out by hand and subsequently using a special machine. When the shoots are 120 cm long, the tips are cut off or "clipped" in order to produce early shoots or "females", which subsequently provide a precious source of young leaves and contribute to the ripening of the fruit clusters.
The soil is tilled mechanically for the second time. The grass is cut in the vineyards subjected to "grassing".
Flowering is completed in the first week, immediately followed by fruit set, i.e. the formation of the small fruits (drupes) following the fertilization of the flowers. An abundant flowering does not always mean an abundance of olives because the olive tree can encounter various problems both during and after the fertilization of the flowers.
Due to the high temperatures and drought which are typical of Tuscan summers, the growth of the shoots slows down and only concludes towards the end of the month. The berries and fruit clusters grow bigger and, towards the middle of the month, the berries are almost touching each other: this is known as the "closing" of the cluster.
In vineyards with an excessive amount of grapes, the clusters are thinned, removing the surplus fruits in order to bring the quantity of grapes within the established limits of 1.5 kg per vine-stock.
The small fruits which have formed begin to grow but tend to fall off. This phenomenon is more or less intense according to the condition of the plant and the progress of the season.
The red berries begin "veraison", i.e. they change their colour to red due to the formation in the skin of substances called anthocyanins: the grapes begin to ripen.
The white berries which are to be used for Vinsanto lose their green colour and assume a translucent yellow colour.
Pesticide treatments are concluded at the end of the month.
A very dry season can lead to an abundant loss of fruits which fall to the ground because the olive tree has very superficial roots and is, therefore, very sensitive to the lack of rain.
Normally the soil is tilled again in order to eliminate weeds.
The grapes continue to ripen: the tannin and anthocyanin content in the skins increases, the sugar content increases in the pulp, and the acid content decreases; the skin and pulp progressively lose consistency. The speed at which this phenomenon occurs varies according to the progress of the season.
Leaf removal begins, this involves removing the leaves around the grape clusters on the north or eastern sides in order to enhance the direct exposure to the sun and reduce humidity.
It is now time to decide when to pick the grapes: many factors are taken into consideration including past weather conditions, the ripeness and health of the grapes, the weather forecast, the availability of labour.
The selected clusters of Malvasia del Chianti are now picked to produce Vinsanto, and left to dry out for a few months (usually three months at least).
The fruits continue to grow bigger and the so-called "oiling" or production of oil inside the drupes increases.
The "suckers" are removed from the plants, i.e. the non fruit bearing branches on the "old" wood or at the base of the tree.
Normally no pesticide treatments are necessary for olive trees except, in very rare cases, for "olive fly".
In the first two weeks of this month, the harvest is in full swing: the clusters are picked entirely by hand, eliminating any diseased or unripe grapes. The harvest is usually over by the 15 th of the month.
The formation of oil inside the drupes continues and the fruits slowly begin to change colour: purplish spots form on the green skin, growing bigger and darker until the olives turn completely black ("veraison").
The vine leaves begin to lose their green colour and turn yellow, brown or red, spattering the vineyards with spectacular colours.
As the days get colder, the plants prepare for their winter rest.
When the temperatures fall considerably lower, the leaves dry up and fall off.
"Veraison" continues in a graduated way and, at the beginning of the month, the harvest begins. The olives are picked by hand with the help of small rakes which are used to "comb" the branches of the trees in order to break off the olives, which fall to the ground onto a special cloth. The olives are then placed in perforated plastic crates and taken to the oil press as soon as possible. The best time for harvesting is when the olives are partly green and partly black.
The oil obtained from the olives which are picked early is usually of a superior quality.
The vines are resting for the winter: pruning begins in vineyards where there is no danger of spring frosts.
Normally the harvest is over by the beginning of this month.
The olive trees begin their winter rest.
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