Winespeak 101: What is Veraison?

The award for coolest wine word you’ve never heard of goes to… Veraison!

Pronounced “ver-ay-shon”, this word is far less complicated than it sounds. It’s a French (what a shocker) viticultural term that roughly means “the onset of ripening.” But it’s actually way cooler than that.

A more colorful (no pun intended) description of veraison is this: “the change in color of the grape berries.” This is an awesome moment when baby grape berries start to get their color, signifying the transition from growth to actual ripening.

Red grapes get a rush of beautiful reddish-purple and white grapes start to move from green to golden. The plant shifts its energy from the vines, shoots and leaves to the ripening of the clusters. Once veraison hits, winemakers generally have about 6 weeks until harvest. When the colors come, the countdown is on.

So great- the grapes have color and their ripening process is underway- time for the winemakers to kick back and chill, right? Not quite.

Veraison is a significant event for winemakers, because it is the first real indicator of the quality that can be expected from the year’s crop. Consistency in color development and ripening is what vintners are hoping for, both in the individual clusters and throughout the vineyard.

Some fruit may not ripen at all, and it may be cut off entirely. Weather patterns also become critical at this point in the grape’s growth- warm, dry days are where it’s at.

Lastly, now that the berries look more like actual grapes, they also smell much more fruity and delicious to various members of the animal kingdom. Birds are particularly grape-hungry, and various methods (from shooting off cannons to predator bird-call devices) are used to ward them off.

Veraison time? Break out the cannons and get those clippers ready.

Never a dull moment in agriculture, folks.

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