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Wine vocabulary: Veraison


It's an exciting day in the vineyards when veraison occurs. This French agricultural word (pronounced "Veh-ray-zohN" and meaning, roughly, "turning point") has been adopted by English-speaking vine growers to denote the midsummer time when the grapes start turning from pale-green to their ripe color, greenish-yellow to pale pink (for "white" grapes) and a spectrum of purple and black in the "red" wine grapes.

Although the grapes won't be ready to harvest for another month or more, the date of veraison gives a hint of when the vintage will come. From this point forward, the small, hard grapes will quickly increase in size, soften and become more sweet as their natural sugar develops.

Veraison came early to the Northern California vineyards this year, the Kendall-Jackson wineries report. "Harvest may be early, based on what we see in the vineyard," wine-company spokesman Jim Caudill said in a news statement. "Veraison is well underway." Based on this, the winery expects to be harvesting Alexander Valley (Sonoma) Chardonnay by Sept. 10, with the cooler Russian River Valley vineyards following two weeks after that.

"The cool weather we've been having has provided for optimal 'warm days, cool nights' focus for the grapes, counter-balancing the earlier hot spells we've been experiencing," Caudill said. "The excitement is building toward harvest!"

Caudill provided an excellent photo (above) of Russian River Pinot Noir bunches at the point of veraison, taken by vineyard manager Hector Bedolla at the company's La Crema vineyard.

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Express Notes:

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Thursday, July 19, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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