Look sharp because you might miss it: the unassuming and lacey floret about to blossom on the grapevine. The cherry and the apple are showy in their blossom; flowers bright like birds, perfumed like women. But the grapes require a keener observation. You’ve got to bow your back and bend your knees to see the delicate and neat design or inhale the subtle and prim aroma.Why so little fuss from the grapevine? Perhaps because they are a solo, self-pollinating act – a hermaphrodite. The vines dress for no one but themselves.
The pre-blossom forms are ball-bearing sized, tight, green fists and often mistaken for miniature grapes; but soon the petal hats, called ‘calyptra’, will fall off to reveal the white flowers. Remember to shout ‘hallelujah’ to the dry weather we have had for the past week as heavy rain drops can imprison the calyptra and prevent the release of the flower. These don’t-give-a-tinker’s-curse-how-I-look flowers have both ‘bits’, the stamen and a carpel. These organs will produce a seed, and around the seed will grow a protective, sweet and tangy, jelly capsule: our grape. What we press, swirl and guzzle is nothing more than the armour around the sacred seed.
Compared to European regions, we are relatively ‘late bloomers’; furthermore, we are about a week behind blossoming compared to last year. However, our vineyard manager, Marcel, says it is nothing to worry about as our variates are muscular heroes. This is also a time for predictions, as not every flower will pollinate we can determine what the yield will bring for the forthcoming harvest. Things are looking positive in Nova Scotia.
Cross your heart
Grapes have been known to become friendly with their neighbourstoo. A few hundred years ago a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Franc plant were living merrily side by side, when cross-pollination occurred: enter a Bordeaux hero, Cabernet Sauvignon. The same relationship flourished between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, creating the South African protagonist, Pinotage.
Marcel says there is always cross pollination in vineyards, but (and this is a good bit), the fruit will remain the same. The seed’s genetic imprint will change, but the grape will remain honourable to its roots. If you were to plant the seeds of these grapes, who knows what kind of magic-crossed-potion would appear at harvest time.