The vintner's year – December


This is the final monthly report of Jim Law of Linden Vineyards. We have enjoyed his regular ruminations on the rhythm of 2013 as a respected Virginia vigneron. We'd love to hear from any other wine producer (or even retailer?) who feels they have very different views and experiences to report over the coming year.

In December we try to leave the vines alone. Pruning is our favourite vineyard task, which is fortunate because we spend a lot of time pruning. But not yet. The vines need to go deep into dormancy, a full acclimation, just in case we experience abnormally cold winter temperatures which could kill buds or damage wood. Ideally we would wait until late in the winter when there are no longer concerns about fatally frozen vines or other cold winter damage. Once the sap flows in early spring, each pruning cut is followed by a bleeding (also known as crying). This sap flow flushes out any pathogens that try to enter pruning wounds. However, if we were to wait until March to start pruning, we couldn't get it all done in time. So soon we will start on the hardiest varieties with fingers crossed for a mild winter.

December is a slow time in the cellar. The most important task at hand is getting acquainted with the new wines. This is the tasting season. In November we taste to screen and monitor for problems such as off aromas and sluggish fermentations. In December we taste in order to get a good overview of the character of the vintage. This will help with decisions regarding elevage (especially lees management), blending, and declassification (if certain barrels are not up to par).

The 2013 vintage is slowly developing. The wines are raw and, frankly, difficult to taste. This year was a high-acid vintage, which can make a wine's finish piercingly tart, especially in youth. However, the quality of the acids is quite high with a sophisticated tartaric acid dominating any greener malic or sour-milk lactic acids. This is the wine style that I love, but this style of wine needs a lot of time to allow the acidity to integrate with the rest of the wine's components. The market place and our loyal customers will have to have patience, an attribute that has become increasingly scarce.

Jim's image is of snow at sunrise at Linden.