That’s the phrase David Gates, our VP of Vineyard Operations, just used for the subject line of a VERY EXCITING E-MAIL that I just received: Legit Veraison.
Which looks like this:
Veraison is a French viticulture term essentially meaning “the change of berry color.”
Physiologically, what this color change indicates is a transition from the growth of the berry, to the ripening of the berry, and a switch in focus from the dedication of the vine’s resources towards its whole growth (leaves and canes) to its berries specifically.
With this focus on the berry comes a change in how the berries are managed by the vines; prior to veraison, the focus is on ripening the seeds. Post-veraison, the focus is on the whole berry, which includes, among other physiological changes, the browning of the seeds and the progressive softening of the skin.
Vine stress comes into play here as well; lack of water to the vine means that vegetal growth (leaves and canes) slows — ideally completely by the time of veraison — which also intensifies the focus on berry ripening, and ideally results in more, (and more naturally achieved!) concentration of flavor.
What all this means as regards the actual production of wine is that, with the onset of veraison, acidity begins to decrease, and sugar levels start going up. And this, combined with a decrease in water intake, means the overall ratios shift in favor of sugar.
Which is good, because eventually, when the berry is properly ripe, it can be harvested, and then fermentation can commence. And fermentation, which is yeast acting upon sugars, results in alcohol. Sweet, sweet alcohol …
So, probably needless to say, the timing and arrival of veraison is a vitally important barometer of progress as regards the rhythm and pace of the ripening season. Late veraison, and/or uneven veraison, can be potentially disastrous for a vineyard. But a well-timed and even veraison means that we’re ideally looking forward to great rest of the growing season, with a well-timed harvest, and a successful vintage overall.
Fortunately, as Mr. Gates notes in his e-mail, today’s Legit Veraison means we are currently right on time.
So as Mr. Gates also writes, Let The Games Begin!