The grapes are beginning to ripen or to put it in grape-growing lingo – veraison is occurring! Yes, as you might imagine, it is a very exciting time of year for us. And, a race as we work in the vineyard to find the ripest grapes to enjoy. Along with veraison comes cluster counts which means we go through the vineyard counting how many clusters of grapes are on a vine.
According to Wikipedia, veraison is:
a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening”. It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.
For us, it means we can eat ripe grapes again – no more green sour berries for us! Since everyone else is also scouring the vines for the ripening grapes and quickly gobbling them down, the challenge at this point is to find the berries going through veraison before anyone else does!
Each of the varieties are going through veraison at this point in varying degrees. Veraison is much more obvious in the reds (Aglianico, Montepulciano and Petit Verdot) than in the white (Roussane) but their color does change from a deep solid green to a clear green color. If in doubt, one taste tells you that they too are ripening!
Our temperatures have been hovering around and over 100F which is honestly, too hot for us, but good for the grapes. The vines need the sunny hot days to ripen the grapes and the heat also kills any molds or mildews that could be present in the vines.
About this time of year, the wineries that buy our grapes are wondering how many grapes to expect at harvest so they can be prepared. This is where cluster counts come in and why they are so important. Plus, it also gives us an idea of what to expect.
Thankfully, we do not have to count each cluster on every vine in the 32 acres. We select certain vines on each row, for example, we might count the second plant after the tenth VSP post. The VSP or vertical positioning posts are taller than the t-posts and are easy to spot making them good markers.
A typical day of cluster counts looks like this:
1. Seven of us take 3 adjacent rows each.
2. Armed with pencil and paper, we all start at one end of the vineyard and walk our respective row to the 10th VSP and go to the second plant.
3. At this point, I like to put my paper, pencil, and sunglasses on the ground (so I can see better) and start manually counting the clusters of grapes.
How hard can that be? Well, you would be surprised! Often there are masses of grapes clusters and telling one cluster from another can be a challenge!
4. Once everyone is done, we switch to our next row and all walk , counting VSP’s as we go until we get to the 10th VSP and the counting begins again.
5. This continues to the end of the rows.
6.. Once our rows are completed, we re-group, get new rows and start over until the vineyard is done!
If we do a good job, meaning our figures agrees with the amount of grapes that we think we see in our daily work, we only do cluster counts once a year.
The more accurate that we are in our cluster counts, the more informed and prepared the wineries are at harvest time. And, I admit, there is an element of pride in knowing you did a good job when you hit the mark at harvest or were very close!
As I walked home from taking the photos to share with you, I was treated to a rainbow over the vineyard!