By Julie Farrell
It seems that we frequently find ourselves saying, "This is an exciting time in the vineyard." And rather than apologizing for it, we'll just own it. The fact is, producing wine means that every year we hang on each stage of our fruit's development. One may liken it to raising children. Just as parents are over the moon when their baby first smiles or sits up independently, so do we feel exhilarated when the first signs of budbreak emerge and when flowering begins.
Right now we are witnessing the onset of veraison. Véraison is a French word which has come to mean the beginning of grape ripening in English. Why is it exciting? Because we get a palpable visual image of what our little grapes will become. It's like hearing the first cracks in an adolescent boy's voice or seeing those first whiskers sprout. Up until this point, the vineyard is straight green: green leaves, green shoots, green grapes...all thanks to the green pigment chlorophyll. In red and black grape varieties, anthocynins now become responsible for the blue-purple-red color of the fruit. During this transition, the berries begin to accumulate sugars in the form of glucose and fructose, while acidity begins to diminish. The grape varieties used to produce our red wines begin to turn various shades of purple, and our white varieties begin to turn to a yellow-green hue. In addition, the berries begin to soften.
The color change may occur in just one grape in a bunch or many grapes in a bunch may change color simultaneously. Our hot and sunny micro-climate in Happy Canyon, coupled with low-volume pruning techniques, mean that veraison is early in our vineyard...an indication of high-quality fruit...and that little Johnny may grow up to be a fine man...or in this case bottle of wine!