Magically, Malta’s precious countryside goes from drab to green as bare grapevines awaken from their winter slumber and are recalled to life again.
This show of lush vegetation across our heavily urbanised island is not only a beautiful sight, but also sets the stage for the grape harvest in summer.
Nature works in wonderful ways.
When soil and air temperatures continue to rise in spring, capillary forces within the vine draw water and stored nutrients upwards from the roots and trunk through the canes to the dormant buds, which have spent the winter wrapped up in hardy scales.
The sap flow increases the hydration of the buds and causes them to swell and burst open. This is budbreak.
In essence, the buds contain everything the grapevine will produce in a given year: new shoots, lush leaves, tendrils for clinging and clusters that will flower and, hopefully, form fruit.
Logically, budburst does not occur on the same calendar date each year.
Documentation of budburst dates for each vineyard parcel is a routine part of annual viticulture management practices. After all, it makes it possible to compare the current season with past vintages and to make an estimate for other grapevine growth phases to come.
In fact, by observing the development of the buds at this early stage, vignerons, viticulturists and winemakers get a first idea of what work needs to be done when in the vineyard.
Budbreak is also indicative of the quantity and quality of the summer grape harvest.
Georges Meekers is Delicata’s head of sales and an award-winning wine writer.