Veraison is the forerunner of the harvest. It’s the period when the grapes start to change their color. Along with the color change, metabolism of the grapes also starts to change: they start to accumulate sugar instead of acids. This way, they prepare themselves to harvest, ripening day by day and be ready for the harvest time.
We can finally distinguish the red and white grape varieties by their color now. Before veraison all the bunches are green. The magic of the veraison is that the berries start to change their color one by one, not all the berries in a bunch change their color at the same time, so in a bunch we can see different colors like green, pink, purple… This creates a truly picturesque view in the vineyard.
Although it’s a drastic change for the grapes, it happens only in a short period of one to two weeks. The time and duration depend on many factors: climate of the region, soil and water status of the vines, variety and rootstock of the vines among others. The start of veraison has a huge importance for the harvest. In this period, the viticulturists generally pay attention to the veraison date when the half of the bunches in the plot change their color. After this happens, it can be roughly counted fifty to sixty days until harvest time. Although it’s not the way to decide the exact harvest time of the grapes, it gives an idea to the viticulturists and winemakers to make an estimation. Another estimation can be done in this period: the yield, since after veraison the grapes won’t change their weight too much.
I had the chance to observe veraison in the beginning of August in Margaux region. When I made a visit to the vineyard on July 30, the veraison had already started but not 50 % was achieved. I made my second visit to the same vineyard on August 6. The change was quite easy to distinguish. Almost all the bunches have finished changing their color. Bordeaux Raisins reports that this year veraison for Merlot was August 4th, while for Cabernet Sauvignon August 7th in Bordeaux. These dates are ten days earlier than the last year and also earlier than the average of the last ten years (2003-2013). It means if everything goes as expected, we can have an earlier harvest in 2015.
After veraison, although the berries look mature in appearance, they still have almost the same taste as the green colored berries in the beginning of the veraison. It’ll take time until they decrease acidity and develop flavours. Cabernet Sauvignon during this period will taste like a green pepper, due to methoxypyrazines. Methoxypyrazines are the only aroma compound in the grapes that decreases during ripening, while other aroma compounds are formed and increase their concentration. Therefore, we’ll soon have less green pepper aromas, and more fruity aromas in our grapes.
In this vineyard, leaf removal was applied before the veraison, eliminating the leaves which cover the bunches. This is done simply to increase the exposed sunlight in the bunches, especially in wine growing regions with less hours of sunlight. You can think of the leaf thinning treatment as a way to take out the hidden treasures which the vines keep under their leaves and bring them out to the sunlight.
I wish a happy veraison and maturing period to all the grapes all around the world!
All images © 2015 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.