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A Grape of a Different Color

by David on July 19, 2009

Last time we checked in the grapes were still pretty small, but coming along nicely. By now, the’re about 2/3 their normal size and yesterday, an eagle-eyed guy on our tour noticed the first sign of veraison in our Cabernet! Hmph!! That’s my job…

What’s veraison? It’s the word we use to describe the color change. The green Cabernet grapes hanging out there now should be a gorgeous, nearly black shade of purple in a few weeks. Cabernet always reminds me of a small blueberry when it’s ripe. But, the transition is lovely. Take a gander.

It starts like this:


And soon it will look more like this:


Drop-dead gorgeous!

And, finally this:

veraison 005

Veraison is a significant stage in the viticultural cycle. It tells us that the vine’s energy has shifted from shoot development into fruit ripening. If you tasted one of the grapes today, it would taste like the most sour blade of grass you can imagine. But now, the hard, green berries will begin to soften as they turn color. The sugar will begin to rise as the acid decreases.

So, how are things going? Pretty darned good. Overall, the season has been very mild, so far. Aside from a short blast of heat in early May, another short one at the end of June and this past warmer-than-normal week it’s been decidedly on the cool side. But, I don’t think it’s slowed us up too much because the first signs of veraison in the middle of July is just about right.

The biggest thing we’ve attributed to the cool weather is rampant shoot growth. The vines are loving it – they want to be bushes this year! I can’t remember when I’ve done so much shoot and leaf thinning in the spring and early summer. But, it’s a blessing, given these few heat waves we’ve had. The leaves help protect the clusters against sunburn.

I’ve done a bit of cluster thinning, too, and may well need to do more once veraison is a little further along.

After it’s complete, I can figure that the sugar will increase by about 1/10 of a percent every day, so it’s a good time to get a baseline sugar reading. If it’s hot, it will rise faster and if it’s cool – then slower. But, it gives me a ballpark idea of when a particular section of vineyard is likely to land on my doorstep come harvest time.

All in all, we can’t complain.  We’ll just hope the weather continues to cooperate and look forward to harvest starting around Labor Day, maybe a little earlier. Cheers!

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