After two weeks of wine, I’m back in the vineyard with the latest happenings there. Right now, we are heading into what we call bunch closure or berry touch. Yes, it seems like there is a name for every little event that goes on in the vineyard and this is exactly what it sounds like Captain Obvious- the berries get bigger and start to touch and this causes all of the spaces between them to close. The fruit at this time has grown from pea-sized berries to about half the size they will be at harvest and it is starting to look like an actual cluster of grapes. Changes are happening on the inside, too. If you were to cut into a berry, you would see soft, white seeds starting to form. And let’s not forget physiological changes- while there is no sugar production as of yet, the berries are accumulating organic acids, mostly tartrate and malate. So, what does this all mean? It means we have a “tween” aged grape.
As you may have guessed if you have been reading my blog long enough, I’m going to run with the whole “tween” human and grape comparison now.
Just like humans, grape varietals develop at different rates. Our early ripeners such as Sangiovese and Viognier are at bunch closure right now, but some others like our Mourvedre and Cabernet Franc are still figuratively playing in the sandbox with their Tonka trucks. For those entering the tween state, this is our last chance to deal with anything that has the potential to corrupt our child- I mean grape- before heading into the dreaded adolescence. Our bad influence has a name and it is powdery mildew. Now, there are other issues to worry about before and after bunch close, but this is the last chance to get rid of this particular corrupting influence before the bunch closes and it is trapped inside where it will flourish (see a few blogs back for what powdery mildew will do to fruit). I equate it to the development of any undesirable character trait in humans- such as lack of respect (definitely high on our family nix list). You try to make a nice environment that allows for positive development- that’s why we spend so much time on canopy management- so things like powdery mildew have a lesser chance of taking hold. Hopefully, it’s enough- sometimes, it’s not and other measures are taken to get rid of it- a little tough love, if you will. Whatever the case, our goal is to get healthy grapes to and through adolescence where they become well-rounded, healthy adults. And then, we squish them.
In humans, the tween stage lasts for a couple of years, with adolescence an additional 3-4 years. With grapes, we have a couple of weeks of tween where the seeds will start to harden and the whole berry will start to soften (hmm, the comparison just got kind of awkward) and then veraison (the grapes turning color, i.e. grape adolescence) commences. Once veraison starts, we have about 45 days until the start of harvest. Aww, they grow up so fast…