Work in the vineyard

Making great wine starts out in the vineyard. Château Puybarbe is a great growth as a result to hundreds of small tasks undertaken with care and precision, repeated season after season, sometimes every day. Every task leads up to the potential outcome, the harvest itself.

Seasons in Puybarbe

The density and power of our wines revolve around a key factor - the grapes are only picked when they have reached the exact desired degree of maturity in all three kinds of separate ripeness criteria:

The first is the maturity in tannins, “phenolic maturity” impacting the structure of the wine. The quality of tannins, the tannic grain impacts how the wine will coat the palate, neither dry or rustic, but rich, concentrated and if possible silky.

The second ripeness, technological maturity, concerns the complex balance between acidity and sugar: acidity contributing to the wine’s freshness and balance and providing paradoxical qualities – youthfulness and aging potential. Sugar levels impact to the alcoholic degree being the less decisive factor (Puybarbe wines can vary between 13.0 to 15.0°) but the balance between acidity and alcoholic degree is of decisive importance.

The third ripeness is aromatic - the natural ripeness of the grape – varying from green to rotten.

Wine starting harvest September



Pruning is the first activity in the year that must be done in January / February. It is about choosing the right fruiting cane and the few buds to leave behind and cutting off everything else. The cane left after winter pruning is then delicately attached to the guide wire in order for it to grow horizontally. P

Pruning calls for experience as it is a key contributor to the quality of the wine produced. Our most experienced worker has done the pruning to the same vines for over 40 years.

Wine Vineyard winter January/February


The wine awakens from its winter sleep and their first stage of growth cycle begins. Buds come out and then shoots begin to grow. In this step all non-fruit bearing shoots that would sap vigor from fruit bearing ones are removed. This step is called suckering and is detrimental to the harvest quality. Levage or “lifting” is the process where the wines are attached by hand to the horizontal guide wires. This is done two or three times throughout the season to keep pace with the wine growth.

Spring is also the time to work the soil. The soil is screefed and ploughed and earthed up to limit the growth of grass. This work is important also for the vines, as it forces the vine roots to sink deep into the ground to find nourishment, and the deeper the roots dig, the less the vines are prone to excess or insufficient water supply later in the season. Replanting, i.e., replacing too old and weak vines also takes place in March and April.

Between late May and June is the time when we limit the vertical growth of the uppermost shoots by trimming. This facilitates the penetration of the sunlight to the grapes and provides better aeration to the bunches. One key element to high quality wine is homogenous growth so the grapes can ripen together.

Wine Levage Vineyard April/Mai


Summer starts when the berries start to take shape, typically between June and early July. Work from now on focuses on leaf thinning and overall canopy management. Leaf thinning enables the grapes to take advantage of the sunlight, but still leaving some protection from direct sunlight overhead. Leaf thinning also provides a free area around the bunches for aeration. By early summer, each vine has from two to eight bunches. The work now focuses on keeping the bunches from becoming overly compact, because this entails a risk of rot. The ideal is to produce relatively small, concentrated berries.

Véraison takes place within a few days in early August. The skins change color, and the grapes start to build up the properties that will make them into a high-quality wine. From this point on, the grapes need sufficient nourishment to concentrate sugar and tannin and to ripen well.

Aoûtement, or lignification is the last phase in a vine’s growth cycle. the veins turn first red, then brown, and the shoots become hard and woody. The grapes are fragile at this stage, and workers must be careful not to jostle them walking through the vines. The grass is now allowed to grow, as long as it does not reach the level of grape bunches. The grass will now absorb water in place of the vines. Water stress significantly improves the tannin quality.

Wine summer June


Determining when to harvest starts in early September. We evaluate the three kinds of ripeness criteria of our grapes: tannins, acidity, and aroma every other day. 

We aim to harvest at the optimum level plot by plot and only when the grapes have reached the exact desired degree of maturity in each of our 48 plots. Recent and expected weather also influences the decision. Rain is the only factor that can upset the process, causing either acceleration or pauses to the harvest. During warm weather the harvest is carried out at nights and ceased when the temperature of grapes exceeds 20°.

In order to harvest plot by plot according to the ripeness of each grape variety in each plot, the Château Puybarbe uses mechanical harvesting and has invested in own harvester machinery. The technical director may decide to pick just a single plot in a full day – or interrupt the harvest for several days, something we could not do without the capacity and flexibility provided by this investment.

Wine vine groth cycle August