Early “Bud Swell” is Worrisome for European Grape Growers

This morning, a Prosecco grower and winemaker posted the below photo on his social media (Friday, January 15).

In Italian, this phase of the bud development (and the vegetative cycle of the vine) is called the cotonosa phase because a cotton-like film develops on the bud as it swelss up.

In English, it is called bud swell.

Here’s a great overview of bud development from the Cornell University website.

Also see the Wikipedia entry for the vine vegetative cycle.

In the northern hemisphere, bud break using occurs in the early spring, generally in February.

Because bud swell is the phase that directly precedes bud break, the fact that the winemaker is already seeing this in the vineyards is a worrisome sign.

As he wrote on the winery’s Facebook this morning, “I’m getting more and more worried.”

His concern is that the vegetative cycle will begin too early and that the grapes will ripen too quickly in the summer.

If they ripen too quickly, they could become over ripe and force grape growers like him to harvest too early when the grapes do not have the balance of acidity and sugar and flavor that he needs to make his signature wines.

It could also affect the freshness of the wine if he decides to let the grape slightly over-ripen. Also, yields could be affected.

And in a market where prices are controlled by the consortium of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano and Asolo growers and where the bigger estates have greater sway over pricing decisions, this could gravely impact his winery’s profits for the year.

As the demand for Prosecco throughout the world continues to grow, there is a lot riding on these little buds and when they will break through their cotton-like film as they get ready to emerge.

Stay tuned: We will be watching and following along closely!