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The life cycle of a vine – ask Decanter

Get to grips with the life cycle of a vine before the grapes are harvested, with help from some graphics from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust...

See this simple guide to the life cycle of a vine.


Budburst is the beginning of the life cycle of a vine, and happens during the spring. The first buds of the vine begin to break, but are very delicate – which is why spring frosts have cause such problems in the vineyard. 

life cycle vine


Early shoot and leaf growth 

The vines develop initial shoots and leaves on the vine. Leaves are required for photosynthesis.

life cycle vine

Flowering and fruit set

The buds turn into flowers and small bunches of grapes begin to grow. Winemakers cross their fingers for good weather during the flowering period. Rain during flowering can lead to poor fruit-set, also known as coulure in French, which can impact harvest size and also quality further down the line.

life cycle vine

Véraison and berry ripening

Véraison is when the grapes have finished growing and start to ripen. For red grapes, this is when the colour turns from green to purple.

life cycle vine


When the grapes are fully ripened, it is time for them to be harvested, to then start the vinification process. Depending on the winery and the location of the vineyard, this may be done by hand or by machine.

If whole bunches are required, these generally must be picked by hand. Harvest can start even earlier than the months listed below, depending on the speed of that year’s growing season. Grapes intended for sparkling wines are often also harvested earlier to retain higher acid levels.

life cycle vine

Winter dormancy 

During the winter months, the vines go dormant, and stop growing, until the next spring. In regions that often experience a particularly cold winter, vines may be buried for their own protection. This happens in the Ningxia region in China, where winter temperatures can reach minus 35 degrees celsius.

life cycle vine


Find out more about learning with the WSET

More on vines:

What happens during véraison?

What does it mean for the grapes...?

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