california vineyardsThe Wine Almanac – February

February is a month when wines may well be treated. They have been in existence for some four months and as wine is subject to all sorts of chemical change, it does need a little help to stay enjoyable on the palate. Our ancestors knew only too well how appalling table wine could taste when left to nature, hence the fashion in preceding centuries for either very sweet wines high in alcohol or spirits which were unlikely to alter once bottled.

In the vineyards, pruning may continue as the weather is normally still very wintery. Grafted vines are planted out to make new areas. As a rule, vines are at the most fruitful about eight to fifteen years after planting, and gradually the yield per vine will diminish.

When a vine is in ‘good health’ it grows vigorously, responds to pruning by flowering abundantly and producing plenty of fruit and not too many leaves, and stay lush and healthy during its annual cycle. In February or march many vineyards are fertilized either with artificial compounds or with stable manure, although in some areas such as Provence and the Napa Valley of California there are ’organic’ winemakers who only use grapes treated with naturally-occurring compounds. For instance, one way of nourishing the roots of the vines naturally is to grow high-nitrogen plants, such as mustard, between the rows and then plough these into the soil. When an entire livelihood may be wiped out by sudden frosts or disease, every precaution must be taken.

Although there are few official festivals in February in wine regions, this is a month for the wine lover to experience great fun at city wine festivals such the annual and popular Vancouver Wine Festival in British Columbia. Then there is the Carnival in summertime Rio de Janeiro, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans…although neither is strictly speaking at the heart of a wine region.