The changing of the four seasons not only contribute to the natural preservation and protection of Clos Marey-Monge, they also allow dramatic stories to unfold in front of our eyes. The seasons are a constant reminder that Clos Marey-Monge is alive with life and purpose, spending each day of every year progressing onwards with its own natural revolution.
For twelve months, our 20-hectare vineyard radiates an ever-changing display of color – from brown to green to red to white – personality and the revolutions of nature.
Fine Dining: Thousands of birds flock to feed on the leftover fruit in Simone
In Autumn, tens of thousands of Starlings descend upon the vineyard to eat the berries we leave behind. Fine dining for the birds, who by now must have impeccable palates and a taste for fine wine! It is also during this time we keep an eye on the vines as they store up sufficient levels of carbohydrates, the energy they will require to get them through the long winter hibernation and the first frost.
Clos Encounter: Sophie employs the Guyot-Poussard pruning method in January
We try not to disturb them, so when St Vincent's Day arrives on January 22nd – the first day of pruning of the new season – we use the Guyot-Poussard method to tidy the vines into shape. This particular method encourages the plant to follow the natural curvature of the vine. Without this method of pruning, our vines would grow into large bushy trees. The vineyard team meticulously prune the vines to help them focus their energy on growing grapes.
St Vincent's Day: Vines in Simone celebrates the first day of Pruning
In Spring, when the first buds bloom and floraison begins, cordons, canes and shoots stretch out allowing a canopy of leaves to emerge before Summer arrives. As Clos Marey-Monge turns color from a muddy dirt-brown to a vast ocean of bright green, it’s the fruit’s turn to finally arrive in their iconic pine cone-shaped clusters of grapes, dangling off the vine by a load-bearing stem ready to plump up to optimal ripeness (usually 90-110 days), and display a finely-tuned balance of sugar and acidity.
Raison d'Etre: Some grapes get left behind after harvest
Clos Marey-Monge springs to life at the end of the winter months, when the sun is more present in the sky, heating up the land just enough to coax the rising of the sap from the vine. This is when the vintage begins.
The grape growing season in Burgundy stretches from April to October. The hardest and most important activity in the vineyard – along with Harvest, of course – is the winter pruning. Winter pruning determines which year-old shoot will be conserved for next year and ultimately how much fruit the vine will bear for the next vintage.
As always, our winemakers and vineyard team are at the beck and call of Mother Nature and there is always much to consider. Emmanuel Sala, our winemaker, can often be seen pacing the vineyard, deep in thought, working out how to react to the predictable, and unpredictable, forces nature throws at his vineyard. Every day there is something new to wonder and panic over.
To celebrate just how gorgeous our vineyard is, let's take a photographic journey through a year in the life of Clos Marey-Monge, Burgundy's largest monopole.
The official start of the season's pruning begins on January 22, St. Vincent’s Day. Our vineyard team, managed by Samuel Grivaux, who has been at Château de Pommard for more than 20 years, use the Guyot-Poussard method. Pruning helps determine the quality and volume of the season's crop.
Burning of the Vines: A tradition that originated in Burgundy, the Burning of the Vines marks the end of winter pruning and the start of budburst. It also stops the spread of disease
Following a Winter rest between December and March, the vines have depleted their carbohydrate resources they stored up following the first leaf fall in Autumn. The first sign of life out of winter dormancy is the emergence of winter buds, little nodes that grow and are covered by two brownish scales.
Winter Buds: A vine in Les Paules shows off its magic
The vine awakes! In February and March, each vine is treated individually by our vineyard team. Following winter pruning, the sap flows from pruning cuts. Sophie, our assistant viticulturist, can often be seen peppered around the vineyard with secateurs in her hands or staring at vines, as the vineyard enters this stage. Also know as "Bleeding", the end of winter is observed when a ‘tear’ appears at the end of each cane – this liquid drop means that sap is moving again and the plant has reawakened!
End of Winter: A vine celebrates the end of winter by weeping or bleeding sap
Ploughing Down circulates oxygen throughout the soil, allowing the vines to breathe. To ensure this process happens as safely and as gentle as possible we employ Mickey, the giant horse to tumble the soil with his gentler hoofs. It is also during this period that Emmanuel and Antoine add in their homeopathic treatments, such as cow-horn manure, in line with our biodynamic schedule.
Oxygenation: Mickey the horse circulates oxygen in the soils
In mid April, the brown scales that first appeared on the winter buds now separate, allowing wooly buds to emerge. This is called Bud Break and it is the start of the annual lifecycle of a grape and signals the end of winter dormancy. After the buds “break”, the green shoots emerge and continue to grow. The swelling and bursting of the bud occurs once temperatures rise above 10°C for more than 10 days. Buds are very precious to us! Spring hailstorms, such as the one that occurred in 2012, can destroy the buds and reduce the year’s crop sometimes by more than 80 per cent. In April and May, spring frosts always strike fear into the hearts of our winemakers and vineyard staff too. We try to remain calm with fingers crossed.
Bud Break: The life of a grape now begins, in the shape of a wooly bud
Welcome to Spring! Towards the end of March and early April, a young green leaf shoot becomes visible on the cane after emerging from the bud.
Kiss From A Rose: Leaves begin life in a rosette shape
The appearance of leaves on the vine first appear in the shape of a beautiful rosette.
Eats Shoots and Leaves: Green shoots bloom and tendrils get stronger
For the next few weeks tiny bunches of flowers will grow and unfold. The group of flowers arranged on a stem, known as inflorescence, will begin to elongate and separate too.
Spring Clean: Bunches of flowers begin to separate and elongate before...
On Their Own: Grapevines bear greenish flower clusters. They're so small, they often go unnoticed
Floraison, or Flowering
Now is the time when things get very interesting indeed. Floraison, or the time when flowers begin to blossom, is an important stage in the lifecycle of a grapevine. It is the flowers that will become fertilized and from which grapes will grow. One flower appears for every flower bud. If, in May or June, temperatures hit 20°C flowering starts as vine branches grow vigorously by warmth. If it’s warm then this happens in 3-4 days, but if it’s cold 3-4 weeks. If this happens then during harvest not all grapes will be ripe at the same time. On average, for optimal grape maturity, there is 90 to 110 days between flowering and harvest.
Bloomtime: Bunches of flowers begin to blossom in May. This will then self-fertilize and develop seeds, and in turn, grape berries
Most of Clos Marey-Monge's Vitis vinifera grapevines are "perfect flowers" – they have both male stamens and female ovaries: they can self-fertilize. After fertilization, the flower begins to develop a seed and a grape berry small to protect the seed.
Thank You Berry Much: Grape berries protect the flower's seed, the essential ingredient for ensuring the continuing lifecycle of a grapevine
It's pea time! As June hits its stride the tiny green berries reach 50 per cent of their final size. The bunch falls into shape – the famous pine cone cluster, a downward vertical position, for which Pinot Noir grapes take their name.
Low Hanging Fruit: Small green grapes are called "peas"
As berries grow, and grow, and fill with just the right amount of water, they start to touch each other. By July the bunches have closed into their pine cone cluster and become more compact.
Véraison, Change of Grape Color
After summer passes its peak, green grape berries begin changing color and start ripening. At the start of August, roughly 45 days until harvest, is when Véraison occurs. This is the process when the color of the grape progressively changes from green to purple. The vine also changes color and flexibility, from fragile green to strong brown. This is known as Lignification.
Veraison Part 1: The green berries start to transform color...
Veraison Part 2: Purple reigns
As September arrives the grapes go into maturity overdrive. The acidity in the grape dramatically drops and the sugar level increases. It is the leaf's job (or more accurately, the chlorophyll inside the leaf) at this point to collect the sun's now-intense summer ray and turn it into energy. A process, of course, known as photosynthesis. This converts light into sugar. Now is the time when the grapes start to taste lovely and sweet – a sign for Emmanuel and his team to start preparing for Harvest.
A Canopy of Stars: Pretty soon the vineyard is clothed in green leaves
Vendanges, or Harvest
Harvest time occurs in Clos Marey-Monge every third week of September, on average. It is the time when the grapes reach their optimal ripeness and maturity, and approximately 90 to 110 days after véraision. Once hand-picked the grapes stop ripening. Usually around this time, Emmanuel can be seen walking around the vineyard's seven terroirs, eating whole clusters of grapes, waiting for when the sweet spot between total acidity and sugar is perfectly balanced, as well as potential alcohol level and pH. When the time is right, and Emmanuel has completed his analysis of every plot, he decides which plot to hand-pick first...and away we go!
Maturity: After more than 90 days the grapes taste sweet and are ready to be picked
After the chaos and stress of hand-picking and sorting the seven plots is complete, and the grapes are safely in their fermentation vats it is time for the leaves to fall and Autumn to start all over again.
Now, it is the job of the vines to store as much carbohydrate in them as possible before the first frost. As the colder temperatures begin to reign, the vines swiftly stop producing carbohydrates from the chlorophyll in the leaves. The leaves begin to lose their color and fall to the ground. This is beginning of dormancy and once again, the color of Clos Marey-Monge changes from bright green to stunning Burgundy red. Sometime between October and November the sap returns to the roots.
Clos Wall: Our 6,000ft long wall turns a vibrant red in Autumn
Clos Marey-Monge has now earned a well-earned sleep. Winter dormancy has arrived. At this time, the vine now relies on its stores of carbohydrates to help it survive the harsh conditions of winter. For the next three months, until around late march, when the whole process starts all over again!
A Dusting of Snow: The Clos changes color once more – this time pure white
As a new year dawns, and amidst some truly horrendous weather, the vineyard team don their rain jackets and descend into Clos Marey-Monge to inspect the vines and begin some pre-pruning. It's a mucky job, but someone's got to do it.
Back to Work: Pre-pruning in miserable weather
From the first bud break in Spring to the last hand-picked grape off the vine in Summer, the last leaf to fall in Autumn to the first frost in Winter, Clos Marey-Monge evolves with every vintage. It's been doing this for thousands of years. And, we hope, for thousands more....