May is a very important month in the lifecycle of the vines on Domaine Mirabeau. In April, the buds break and begin to swell to show the first leaves and future branches. Then follows the critical process of ‘ebourgeonnage’ or debudding; the viticulturalist and their team select the branches that will help produce the best quality grapes.
Domaine Mirabeau Marketing and Client Relations Manager, Bea caught up with Clément, Consultant Viticulturalist to Mirabeau, to find out more about debudding at Domaine Mirabeau.
What does ebourgeonnage (‘de-budding’) of vines involve in Provence, and why do you do it?
Ebourgeonnage aims to carefully select buds which will continue to grow during the vegetative season and will then go on to become the vine’s branches. This important process helps control the grape yield, enables the canopy to develop uniformly, and it also helps avoid overcrowding, which can lead to harmful fungi diseases taking hold.
When did the team do the debudding process at Domaine Mirabeau in 2020?
We did the ebourgeonnage from mid-May to mid-June. Usually, they do it early in the morning, from 6am to 12pm while it’s not too hot, so as to protect the team from the sun.
How long did it take, and how many people were involved?
Ebourgeonnage is a very laborious, time-consuming process, and extreme care needs to be taken. A team of 12 local workers was involved this year. It usually takes around 25 hours per hectare, and Domaine Mirabeau has 14 hectares of vines. However this year, due to the unprecedented Spring frosts having sadly harmed the quality of the crop, we needed to invest a lot more time in the debudding process.
How did the process differ for the different types/ages of vines on Domaine Mirabeau?
This year we’ve done two different operations : Classic ebourgeonnage on ‘young vines’ (vines around five years old on Domaine Mirabeau) then on the ‘old vines’ (around 15 to 25 years old) we kept the ‘sacre’ – the branch coming from the bottom of the trunk in order to reform the plant architecture during pruning this winter.
What is the next phase for the vines in June/July on Domaine Mirabeau?
By mid-June the vines had completed their flowering process. Interestingly, the blossoms pollinate themselves without the help of bees. In other words, the vitis vinifera varietals are hermaphroditic. This is a key step since the pollination will determine the growing of the grape berries.
It is during this stage of flowering that the pollination and fertilisation of the grapevine takes place with the resulting product being a grape berry (this stage is called ‘nouaison’ in French). In French we call the tiny berries peas, or ‘petit pois’.