Vine Talk: Verasion
“I’ve never seen anything like it!”, says Mike Rennie, owner of Leoness Cellars and a long-time grower and vineyard manager here in the valley. “Harvest is going to be the earliest I’ve ever seen! We’re already seeing verasion in all of our white grape varietals – and in some of our red varietals. The sugar level in our Pinot Grigio this morning was 18%. It’ll probably reach the 22% we look for and be ready for harvesting by mid to late July. It’s just incredible!”
In vineyard speak, verasion is a term used to describe the changing of color in a grape cluster. All grapes are green up this point, but as the ripening process evolves, the clusters will begin the process of turning into those recognizable hues of golds, pinks, reds and purples. The grapes at this stage are sour and immature, but during the next few weeks as the fruit matures, astringent malic acids turn into soft tartaric acids and the sugar levels begin to rise rapidly.
There’s lot of action in the vineyard during this time. The leaf canopies are constantly being pruned to allow just the right amount of sunlight and air to circulate though the vines. Clusters that are not ripening evenly will be dropped to allow those that are to uniformly mature. Unlike table grapes, small berry clusters are what we’re looking for as they have a better skin to fruit ratio that ensures enhanced concentrations of flavor and structure. And that’s a very important aspect for making quality wines! We’ll be praying for warm and dry weather – at least through the harvest season – to allow for the long, slow ripening process that our winemakers love.
What actually triggers verasion remains a mystery, but we can be sure that Mother Nature holds all the cards!