Around this time each year during the growing season, the fruit in the vineyard will start undergoing a change. Similar to a teenager going through puberty, the grapes are morphing into adulthood and transforming from hard, bitter, green clusters and into the plump, sweet, reddish/purple grapes we all associate with wine. This process is what the French call "veraison" (veer-ray-zohn) and simply put, this is the ripening time for the fruit. Even though the change is most dramatic for red grape varietals, white wine grapes will go through the process too ... it's just that instead of turning into a hue of red, blue, or purple, the berries will become more translucent instead.
So, what does all of mean? What is actually happening to the grapes themselves? Well, veraison marks the point in the vine's annual cycle where focus changes from energy creation through photosynthesis and switches to energy consumption. Using the energy reserves from its trunk, the vine will start replacing the chlorophyll in the grape with anthcyanin, a pigment for red varietals, and carotenoid, a pigment for white grapes. The color change acts as a protector for the grape from the sun, wind, and other stress factors as it continues its maturation process.
In addition to changing colors or hues, during veraison the grapes will increase in size as their acidity levels drop and the sugar levels rise. The sugar levels in the grape, glucose and fructose, are measured in a unit called "brix". Brix is essentially a way to measure the alcohol level of a wine before it's made by determining the sugar level of the grape. Roughly put, every 1.8 brix translates to 1% alcohol in a finished wine.
Although grape varietals will ripen and accumulate brix at different speeds, generally most grapes are harvested between 22 and 27 brix. From the onset of veraison, it will typically take grapes anywhere from 30 to 70 days to reach the ideal brix ... which means that on the present course we are only 4-6 short weeks away from the chaos and furor of harvest! We can't wait and we'll be sure to update you further as that time comes!