Walking through the vineyard last week, I noticed something different out of the corner of my eye. As I approached a once solely green cluster of Malbec grapes, I realized I was now seeing some purple. This noticeable change in the grapes means one thing: véraison.
Mid-July is often an exciting time for grape growers and winemakers, as this is when we start to see véraison, or the ripening of grapes. During véraison, red wine grapes turn red or purple and white wine grapes develop a golden yellow hue. However, the grapes not only change color, but throughout the process they increase in volume, weight and sugar content. The grapes begin as hard, small berries, but by the time they’re at full véraison, they will be much larger and pliable.
Véraison occurs over a long period of time and each grape variety ripens at a different rate. For example, we usually begin harvest each year with Sauvignon Blanc because it is our earliest ripening grape, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be one of the last varieties that we harvest due to the longer ripening time it requires.
How do we know when it’s time to harvest? Our expert winemaking team has a variety of methods for testing when grapes are ready. Knowing the perfect time to harvest the berries begins with tasting. Winemaker Sara Fowler is looking for specific flavors in each grape variety. In addition to tasting, we measure sugar levels, pH and acidity to also help us determine when our fruit is ready to be picked.
When it comes to this year’s harvest timeline, Sara says that véraison is occurring at a very normal time. “Originally, we were predicting that we would have an early harvest with the very dry weather at the beginning of the year.” Fowler explains. “But, with the cooler temperatures we’ve had during the spring and summer so far, it is looking more and more like we will have a very normal harvest this year.”
Harvest season is an exciting time for any winery, and we can’t wait to see what this vintage has in store. Stay tuned for updates and behind the scenes sneak peeks into Peju harvest 2015!