We’re starting to see veraison in the vineyards. Don’t know what that is?….that’s okay. There’s a picture for that….
Why are there green and red berries on the same cluster? Well, this particular vine is actually a red varietal. I don’t know specifically what it is, but it’s clear that these are going to be red grapes. All those green berries will soon be purple just like the ones that have already turned color. White wine grapes also go through the veraison process, but remain green.
This is the time when the grapes begin ripening. If you were to reach out and eat one of these grapes, it would be very bitter and acidic. Not what you would expect. However, just a few weeks from now try again and the result would be very different.
From this point forward the sugar levels in the grapes will begin to rise. Simultaneously, the acidity in the grapes begin to fall. At some point the two will meet in harmony and it will be time to harvest. Usually that time is about six weeks from veraison, but that can be shortened or extended depending on weather conditions and varietal.
In about two weeks time from now, just about all the clusters will be done with this process and we can start to figure out the timing of this harvest. So far, things have been moving quite slow. We’ve yet to sustain warm to hot temperatures. It’s been warm, but definitely cooler than average.
As a result, there’s something that is being done in many vineyards right now: leaf thinning.
Here’s a picture of one side of a vine that has not been ‘leaf thinned’….
Here’s the same vine on the other side….
See how all the leaves have been cut away? This was done by a tractor with a special attachment that carves away all the leaves, exposing the clusters of grapes. This allows direct sunlight to warm up the grapes and move along the ripening process. Usually this type of vineyard management is done in cooler years, like this year.
This was likely a difficult decision for many growers because of the recent memories of what happened with last year’s crop. In 2010, about 10 days after most vineyards went through leaf thinning, we had a major heat wave. In some areas the 24-hour temperature difference was as much as 60 degrees.
Many grapes ended up sunburned and some stems became so dehydrated that they literally died. Like these ones here….
It was sad. But based on the 2010’s I’ve tasted so far, I don’t have any complaints. There was certainly less crop and lots of sorting at the wineries, but all still looks (and tastes) good.
As for this year, only time will tell.