If you visit a vineyard during veraison, you’ll be amazed by all the different colors, from green to deep purple. Veraison is a phenological stage of grapevine, when the berries start their ripening period, by changing their color from green to yellow or red. Each individual berry has their own speed to start this change. Moreover, each grape variety and each location show different dates of veraison. That’s why it’s possible to observe so many colors at once.
In Wines of Nesli, we experienced veraison with you before. In 2015, we talked about Veraison in Bordeaux, which started at the end of July-beginning of August. Last year in 2016, Veraison in Napa Valley showed us the first red colored berry in the second week of July. This year, we are in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia, as one of the coolest climate viticulture regions, has the phenological stages later compared to other wine regions. Generally, most of the vineyards are covered with snow until the end of March. This year the budburst started in the middle of May. A couple of weeks ago, in the last weeks of August the veraison started with the earliest varieties and currently is happening for most of the varieties. If you think that most of the Northern hemisphere growers have already started to harvest, you can understand how late the season is here.
Not only the season, the grape varieties grown in this region also are different. Vitis vinifera and hybrid grapes are grown here side by side.
Before starting with veraison, let’s make a parenthesis for the “hybrid grapes”.
The varieties frequently we hear about, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay etc. are the cultivars of the Vitis vinifera sativa. They are all coming from the same species of Vitis vinifera. However, that’s not the only species that gives grapes. For example, there are different species in the American series such as Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia, Vitis berlandieri, Vitis rupestris and more. When different species are crossed to give a unique vine, we call it a hybrid grape.
After this small introduction to hybrid grapes, let’s go to Gaspereau Valley, one of the wine growing valleys of Nova Scotia, to observe the veraison in some of them grown in the region, such as Maréchal Foch, Leon Millot, New York Muscat and L’Acadie Blanc.
Maréchal Foch is a red hybrid variety developed by Eugene Kuhlmann (a French hybridizer) in Maréchal Foch is a French red hybrid variety developed by Eugene Kuhlmann (a French hybridizer) in Alsace, France. It was named after the French marshal (maréchal), Ferdinand Foch. It’s a vigorous early ripening variety that can survive in harsh winter conditions until – 32 oC. This makes it a good option for places with cold winters in Canada and the US. It’s grown in limited amounts in Europe as well.
In Nova Scotia, Maréchal Foch is one of the hybrids used for making dry red wines. Although you can find it as a single varietal, most of the time it’ll be accompanied by other red hybrids. Alone, it gives wines with a good aging capacity thanks to its high acidity and moderate tannins, and typically it benefits from oak aging.
Following photo will show you how its small berries start to change their color one by one and go through veraison.
Léon Millot is another French hybrid developed by Eugene Kuhlmann and it gives red grapes. It’s an early ripening variety which makes it a good option for regions like Nova Scotia with a short growing season.
See how the bunches look when the berries start to change color.
New York Muscat
New York Muscat is a hybrid crossed by Cornell University. Being one of the more than two hundred grapes which are named as Muscat, it shares the typical Muscat aromas and is generally used in NS in the blends for refreshing white still or sparkling wines.
It gives pink-skinned grapes when it’s mature. During veraison, you can observe all the lovely colors from green to light purple.
L’Acadie Blanc is crossed in Ontario, Canada and it gives white grapes. When it’s sent out to Nova Scotia for testing, it adapts the terroir of this province where it’s mostly grown today. You can find it in the other wine-growing regions of Canada, Quebec, Ontario and BC. We’ve already met L’Acadie blanc in Wines of Nesli, talked about its viticulture and wine characteristics.
In white grapes it might be difficult to observe the veraison. Unlike the red ones, the berries change the color from green to yellow. This is not obvious most of the time. But if you look at the bunches closely, you will see the color change in some of the berries and when you touch those berries they will be softer. That’s how you can understand it’s under veraison.
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