In the Winemaking World it's Veraison Time!

veraison.jpg

The grape growing cycle is currently at the point where berries (the actual term for individual grapes) begin to turn color. This marks the point at which the grape vines move from berry growth to berry ripening.

The term for this stage is called Veraison (vuh-rey-zhun). And this means that there is now approximately 45 days until the beginning of harvest.

While veraison is most obvious on red wine grapes, white grapes also go through veraison. While their color change isn't as dramatic as the reds, they do change from green to a more yellow or golden green. 

Veraison marks the point where the grapes stop growing in size. But, it's also when the sugar content of the grapes changes significantly. And, the acid begins to decline.

So, winemakers are now very closely watching and testing the grapes to find the point where the sugar content and acidity are just right for the particular wine they are trying to produce.

It's an exciting time in the vineyard and harvest is just around the corner! Cheers!

Wine Flavors - The Grapes

Cinsault-grapes.jpg

Last time, we started the exploration of wine flavors. And, basically, a wine's flavor comes from the grapes, the fermentation process and its aging. So, let's jump right in and start with the star of the show, the grapes.

You might think "Well, of course a wine's flavor comes from the grapes." And, yes, the grapes are extremely important in the wine making process and form the basis for how the wine will taste. But, within a grape variety, there can also be tremendous variations associated with factors such as where the grapes are grown and when they are harvested.

Location is very important. Factors such as day and night time temperatures, sunlight, the amount of rainfall and soil type all play into a wine's terroir. Grapes grown in cooler climates such as in Bordeaux, will tend to have their red fruit flavors enhanced (e.g., cherry and red currant) and be a bit lighter in body while warmer climate Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in California's Napa Valley produce bigger fruit flavors (e.g., blackberry, black currant and black cherry).

Harvest time also plays a huge role in a wine's flavor.  Winemakers are constantly checking the sugar levels of the grapes in the vineyard (Brix) as they ripen. As the sugar levels increase in the grapes, the acid levels that produce tartness will decrease. So, winemakers chose the Brix-to-acid ratio that will produce the flavor of wine they are looking for.

Where the grapes are grown and when they are harvested plays a huge role in the flavors of all wines. But, once these flavors are established, the fermentation process and aging will also contribute to a wine's final flavor. We'll look into these factors in the next couple of blogs. Until then, Cheers!

 

Ever Wonder About the Life Cycle of a Wine Grape?

Well, maybe you haven't ever wondered about the life cycle of a wine grape. Wine making is typically the process that gets all of the attention. And, yes, it's amazing that grapes can be turned into such complex wines. The process of growing the grapes tends to take a backseat to the wine making process. But, it's an equally fascinating process that should not be overlooked. So, let take a look at the farming side of wine making.

Grapes are perennials. You only plant them once and they sprout, grow, bloom and produce fruit. And, they repeat that cycle year after year. 

Bare rapevines that are dormant

Bare rapevines that are dormant

So, let's jump into the cycle and start with Winter. This is the point where all the fruit has been harvested and all the leaves drop. The grape vine is bare.  This is the time when pruning is done. The canes, which are 'branches' that extend from the crown of the trunk, are cut back in order to ensure the best ones remain for the growing cycle. Not surprisingly, this is a very labor-intensive process.

Bud Break

Bud Break

In the Spring, buds begin to form on the canes. "Bud Break" is a very exciting time for grape growers as it's the first indication of the health of the coming crop. And, again, some pruning is done to ensure the vines are growing properly.

Flowering

Flowering

Then, Spring flowering occurs. And what's amazing is that grape vines are self-pollinating! No need for bees! I'll leave that topic for another time, but it's quite interesting how this came about.

Summer with vines full of leaves and grapes

Summer with vines full of leaves and grapes

By Summer, the flowers have become berries. Yes, grapes are berries! Now you begin to see the first signs of grape clusters. In late Summer, the green grapes being to start changing color and ripen. This is called Veraison (Verre-ray-shun). Now, the bunches of grapes take on those wonderful colors of yellow, pink, and purple.

Finally, Fall comes around and it's harvest time. Grape growers and wine makers become very focused on the sugar levels of the grapes (Brix) as they ripen. Once the grapes reach just the right level of ripeness, they are quickly harvested. Unlike other fruits, grapes don't continue to ripen once picked. So, you have to get it right.

Then, Winter comes around again, the vines lose all their leaves and the vines go dormant. And, the cycle starts all over again.

So, next time you focus your attention on a particularly wonderful wine, remember that a lot of things must have gone very well in the vineyard to produce the grapes that became the wine. Cheers!