Grape veraison: what a difference a year makes

by on August 7, 2012

Veraison is underway in our vineyards, and what a difference a year makes. The onset of ripening, veraison is the time in a grapevine’s annual lifecycle when the red grapes change from green to purple hues–when acidity decreases and sugars begin to accumulate. Winemakers want the grape clusters to go through veraison fairly quickly, because the uniformity of coloring within the cluster and within the vine will mirror the uniform maturity of fruit at harvest (about six weeks later). And more uniformly ripened grapes are one of the keys to making a silky, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon. It took our Cabernet vineyards around two weeks to complete veraison last year (see below time-lapse video) because of the cooler growing season. The grapes ripened a little less evenly as a result, so we had to spend more time veraison “thinning” clusters to ensure the grapes were more homogenous in flavors.

This year, the growing season has been ideal, and the moderately warm temperatures in August helped veraison happen at a perfect pace. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes started changing color in Alexander Valley between July 14-28, depending on when the vineyard was pruned and the microclimate of that vineyard. Jordan’s Alexander Valley vineyards are anywhere from 40 to 70 percent complete on veraison as of today, and I expect each vineyard to complete veraison over a 10-day period in 2012. The grapes are ripening very evenly, which has me optimistic for a classic vintage. The red grape harvest will probably begin mid-September (or the third week of the month) with Merlot, which ripens about one week earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. The tiny hillside parcel of Malbec grapes we source begins veraison around the same time as Merlot, while our Estate Petit Verdot grapes tend to change color 2-3 weeks later than the other three Bordeaux grapes that comprise the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon master blend. Petit Verdot veraison should be underway this week.

You can see the variation in the architecture of the grape clusters and color in the below image. These photos were taken between July 28-August 4.

2011 Vintage Veraison Time Lapse Video:

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    lots of lovely looking grapes here, wow.