In viticulture (grape-growing), veraison is the onset of ripening. Veraison (pronounced, veh-ray-zuhn) marks the stage in vine ripening when the grapes go from little, hard green berries to softer, colored grapes. The term is originally French (véraison), but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is "change of color of the grape berries".
This time of year is highly anticipated. We have been monitoring weather, searching and waiting for the first signs of color in the clusters. These two pictures were taken about one week apart in our vineyard.
When the little berries begin, the acid content is much higher than sugar. During veraison, the sugar content increases and acid decreases, making the berries softer and plumper, looking more like actual grapes. This is a pretty important stage in winegrowing. Veraison is a physiological stage in the vine life cycle that is marked by a change in the appearance and hardness of the grape berry. Till now, the grapes looked like little green peas. Veraison takes them from this stage to actual grape stage. For white varieties, this means that they become a softer, transparent yellow-green color. For red varieties, it’s more obvious, taking the grape from bright green to red or purple. Up until now, the berries are very firm. Once they get through veraison, the berries are pliable and this elasticity is one of the only ways to observe veraison in white wine grapes.
As a general rule, once grapes complete veraison, they will be ripe and ready to harvest in about six weeks. Veraison typically takes 5-7 days to complete. The interval from veraison to harvest is different for each varietal, and is largely dependent on heat accumulation and crop size. Merlot takes fewer heat units to ripen than Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
In the case of both white and red grapes used in winemaking, the onset of veraison marks the end of grape skin cell division. Once it is finished, the grape skin cell number is fixed. A smaller number of skin cells generally mean smaller berries. A small berry has a better skin to juice ratio that ensures a better concentration of flavor and structure, something that’s very important in quality winemaking.
From this point on, the berries just keep ripening to become the perfect grape for our future wine and the busy time begins!
We asked our Facebook friends “Do you know why we mow the weeds in our vineyard rows instead of having cleared the ground?
Here's our answer:
We keep row cover due to prevent wind erosion as well as habitat for beneficial insects and in the hopes cutworm stay in the weeds instead of crawling up the plants to eat grape buds in the spring. With no center row irrigation, we allow the natural weeds that survive to be the cover crop. Part of our LIVE sustainable certification we limit the amount of raw materials (inputs such as pesticides, fertilizer, water, chemicals, fuel, etc.) used in vineyard and winery production. We strive to develop proactive and preventative, sustainable agricultural practices. These include the use of integrated pest management, beneficial cover crops, and manual weed control.
One of my favorite things about bottling is sitting down at the computer with a glass of wine to write tasting notes. I have 3 bottles to review on this amazing Wednesday. When the tough days of the job come around I just have to remind myself of the good ones.
The winemaking crew and I used our very best techniques in making our 2013 Winemaker’s Bloc Red Blend. We selected the best vineyard blocks from within the larger high-end vineyard blocks and hand managed these winemaker blocks in a way to achieve the highest possible quality of fruit. The fermenting wine was protected from oxygen to protect the delicate fruit of each varietal. I selected French oak barrels of the highest quality and managed the maturation process with frequent topping of barrel lots to minimize any head space in the barrels. The resulting wine is I believe truly the best that we can make from our Estate White Bluffs Vineyards and maybe the best wine that I have ever tasted. This wine contains the attributes of a world class wine and will peak in quality with 10 to 20 years of additional aging. I am very excited and proud to release to the public this amazing Washington State White Bluffs vineyard wine of a paramount quality that is rarely found.