Birds and Bees With Wine
Here is a question I am sure you have asked yourself… Do Grapevines Have Flowers? The answer from Stefen Stolysiak of Rodney Strong Vineyards is a strong-yes. Brace yourself for a discussion of the birds and bees.
Although you may have never seen it, every grape does start with a flower, quite inconspicuous though it may be. A wine grape flower is considered “perfect”, in that the same flower contains male and female structures, and can pollinate itself. Because of this, grapes do not rely on insects for pollination (or wind for that matter), and do not produce nectar. For this same reason, they don’t need to be showy, aromatic, or colorful – perhaps this is why they get so little attention!
The 5 pointed petals are merely green, and unlike most flowers which open in the center and stay attached at their bases for awhile, grape flower petals open at their bases, and the middle stays together. The result is that the entire petal structure (calyptra) detaches at its base and falls off in one piece. This exposes the 5 pollen producing male parts, known collectively as the stamens, and the single pollen receiving female part, the pistil. The end of the pistil is sweet and sticky, and this is where pollen grains will adhere to, and grow down into the ovary of the flower and fertilize what will later become seeds. Around these seed embryos is a fleshy layer that will eventually grow to become the edible (and fermentable) part of the berry that will make a future wine so delicious.
Grape flowers do have an aroma, though many people miss it even in wine country during full bloom. That’s because it’s a very delicate aroma that can be difficult to notice with all the other aromas of spring. It reminds me vaguely of warm clothes spinning with a dryer sheet – somewhat floral, somewhat sweet, and never overpowering. But once you become aware of that lovely, ethereal scent, you’ll never mistake it again. You’ll be able to drive by a vineyard and know if it’s in bloom just by using your nose!
Remember, wild grapes and the grapes developed by wine grape vine nurseries/suppliers are not the same. The vine’s for wine production are a real hybrid with their own specific DNA. The actual flower also has differences between varietals of wine vines. So it is worth being amazed at Mother Nature. There is research ongoing about the complexities of the grape and it starts with he flower.