Mysterious juice cartons in the vineyards raise questions among walkers. Do Palatine wine growers apply new methods of wine cultivation? Is the bag filled with a special vitamin cocktail to fasten the vine’s growth? Or, is the bag part of a marketing campaign initiated by creative wine makers? Those and other questions might have crossed the walkers’ mind.
The answer is clear and simple. The bags protect the young vines at a stage when they are the most vulnerable. The damages caused by game animals, such as deer or wild pigs, are a serious problem for wine growers. Those game animals live in the nearby Palatinate Forest. During the night they leave the underwood and stroll through the vineyards. Their favorite dishes are the sprouts of young plants, such as vines, or fruits, such as grapes.
The regional newspaper Rheinpfalz interviewed one of the wine experts of the Rural Service Center of Rhineland-Palatinate (DLR). The expert explains that the juice cartons are nonconforming products or misprints, which are not allowed for normal use. But there is also a financial incentive, because those cartons may be purchased at a bargain price. Besides the fact, that these cartons protect the vine sprouts, there is another positive side effect. As hot air is captured inside the carton, a micro climate evolves, which may indeed fasten the vine growth.
When the vine is strong enough and less vulnerable for hungry animals, the wine makers remove the juice bag. From the third year on, the vine’s grape are ready for harvest. The first harvested grapes are called the virgin crop. At about 20 years the vine reaches its peak in terms of total crop. It is usually about this time when the wine growers decide to remove the old vines and plant new ones. Taking into account the life cycle of a vine, it is important for a successful wine grower to understand the upcoming trends in taste and demand.
Old vines often carry high quality grapes, which results in flavor-rich wines. In Germany, vines, that have at least 40 years, are allowed to use the specification “old vines”, which is an indicator for premium quality. Some prestigious wines come from vines that are more than 60 or 80 years old. The oldest vines in Germany belong to a 400-year-old Gewürztraminer vineyard. This vineyard is located in the Palatine village of Rhodt at the beginning of the Southern Wine Route.