Every so often, we here at The French Corner like to remind our readers of what time of year it is in the world of grape growing, so as to keep fresh in our minds what lies ahead for the vineyards and wines we get excited about.
As of the first of June, wine growers and wine makers start to head into coming to grips with what they will start with in terms of yields for the rest of the season, barring any further inclement weather that is. So as they move on from their Fruit-Set, they go into the season where what they have ripens as best they can.
And of course, we will provide what Fruit-Set & Veraison are, to refresh your memories. 😊
~ Fruit Set ~
Bees help as much as they can, but many grapevines self-pollinate, after which fruit set occurs. Small, green clusters of grapes become noticeable on the vines. Fruit set usually begins in May, and quite often, vineyard managers still have to worry about frost. Not all the vines will pollinate, so fruit set is once again an important indicator of crop yield. If many of the vines aren’t showing fruit clusters, yields will be low. Considering the price of grapes by the ton, low yields can be an economic disaster for vineyard owners.
During Fruit-set, vineyard crews will work on canopy management, to control the amount of sunlight and air that the fruit clusters receive. Grapes need sunlight to ripen, too much sun in hot climates can give the fruit a sunburn. This management prompts vineyard workers to tend to each row of vines 20-30 times in a single growing season.
In addition to canopy management, the vineyard workers will inspect the fruit clusters and cut away any clusters that aren’t developing properly. It can be tough for growers to see so much fruit dropped, but this crop thinning helps the vines send their energy only to the best clusters and results in high-quality fruit. Vintners in places like the Napa Valley state that while their vineyards produce only about half the fruit per acre compared with other grape-growing regions, and the price per ton for Napa grapes is about five times higher than for other California grapes.
~ Veraison ~
This is the long-awaited segment of the season when a vineyards hard, green grapes develop sugar, and begin their transformation into plump, juicy clusters. Especially noticeable in red grapes, the fruit turns from green to purple. In white grapes, the clusters turn from bright green to a more mellow golden green.
Veraison can finish anywhere from July to October depending on the region. Vineyard workers will watch the grape clusters carefully. They may prune the canopy of grape leaves again to allow for more ripening, or they may drop more fruit if they see too many clusters or uneven ripening.
Depending on what wine you decide to drink, keeping an eye on a vineyard's progress can yield results for the end customer somewhere between 8 months to 30+ years, so have fun and see how it's going!