Because of the massive and ongoing drone of news regarding drought, vineyards have been front and center when it comes to what is happening in the wine business. The latest concern is that veraison is occurring earlier than normal in 2014. Yeah, what the heck is veraison?
Veraison is a term that most would or will never need to know, yet is a critical stage during the ripening process for grapes in which they turn color. People in the wine industry know all about the term. What it means is that usually the grape turns from green to red and finally purple, while also becoming softer. In other words, the berries stop growing and start ripening – and the process doesn’t take very long. And now you know an important term in the wine business. By the way, it’s pronounced ver-ray-shon.
After typical growing season in spring and relatively quiet first part of summer, when veraison happens, vineyards start getting busy. Vintners and staff prepare for and bottle usually two years ago’s vintage and then ready for harvest when it hits in earnest.
Here in Paso Robles, an early harvest is beginning to become a reality as some picking has already occurred. And in this particular instance, a much earlier than normal harvest might not be such a bad thing what with the likelihood of an El Nino heading our way. Rain can cause problems with grapes so although the veraison means moving up workloads that may not have been prepared for, dodging moisture which can cause mildew is much worse than a little inconvenience.
So veraison is definitely underway and here’s an instance that might show how early the change is this year. A small local multiple gold-winning vineyard here in Paso usually sees veraison of their Zinfandel in mid-August – or even a bit later – but last year saw ripening happen near the beginning of August. This year veraison has already started with a week of July still to go.
Of course with an early veraison, means the sweeter grape are here sooner, which brings in pest like birds. That in-turn means the netting needs to go on. Also, with veraison happening earlier, the grapes are exposed to more heat while ripening.
Pinot Noir is usually the first grape to go through veraison and Cabernet Sauvignon the last. This critical period when grapes lose their acidity and gain sugar – the beginning of wine development – is an exciting time in wine country and means harvest isn’t far behind. And note that this wasn’t a big surprise considering the early bloom that most received this year due in part to the drought. However, things could have been much worse if it wasn’t for some needed rain in March.
This matters to us because we’re sort of tied at the hip with the wine industry. With bottling happening a little sooner, it’s time us barrel folks start gobbling up the used barrels.
Daryle W. Hier