As the month of August comes to a close, most of our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are through veraison and vines are getting ready for harvest. Veraison is the transformation the grapes go through as they turn from hard green berries into soft juicy sweet grapes. The grapes will swell, and the skins of red grapes have darkened and started to soften. As we get closer to harvest the seeds will turn from green to brown, and the sugars will increase as the acidity decreases.
We keep a close eye on the vineyards as we go through veraison. Once we are about 80% complete the vineyard crews will make a “Green” pass through each row and drop the clusters lagging behind in development. It is a critical time because this is the first clue of how even the maturing process has been and how much fruit will be dropped because it will never catch up to the riper grapes. That would cause uneven ripening and green flavors in the wine, something definitely to be avoided. As many winemakers say, “there ain’t no fixing green.”
Once the lagging fruit has been dropped then we can more closely estimate the crop size before harvest by conducting cluster counts in the vineyard. This will help plan for picking dates, size of the picking crew, amount of tank space in the winery that will be required, even the amount of glass and corks and other supplies needed for bottling. It also marks the beginning of the end as the grapes head toward harvest, which usually begins 40 to 60 days after veraison is complete. It marks the end of the cycle of berry growth and the beginning of true maturation and ripening. It is almost akin to a teenage boy’s voice changing from high pitched to deeper tones, it marks the physical maturation of the grape. So listen for those baritone notes coming from the vineyard sometime in August. Then the harmonious sound of all the grapes maturing at the same time will fill the air. It is always sweet music to the winemaker’s ear.