Veraison, at last


Veraison, at last

Veraison – the stage in grape phenology where the berries change colour and the skins soften – is occurring at last with my Pinot Noir vines. I’ve deliberately chosen this rather ragged looking bunch to illustrate some of the challenges of growing wine grapes in the UK.

First, you can see the ‘hen and chicken’ effect (millerandage), which is usually caused by cool or wet weather during flowering (but can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies). The hens are the normal-sized berries, the chickens the bullet-like small berries which won’t ripen properly.

Second, there’s quite a spread of development in the bunch, with some green berries and some purple ones. Uneven ripeness in the same bunch is a bad thing. It means that you can end up with wines showing underripe green flavours and overripe jammy flavours at the same time. I don’t like ‘sweet and sour’ Pinot Noir.

It’s now the end of August, and the days are getting shorter. Will these grapes ripen properly? Even in this warm, sheltered site (my back garden), there’s a likelihood that they’ll struggle to limp over the finishing line…

8 Comments on Veraison, at lastTagged
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

8 thoughts on “Veraison, at last

  1. I’ve had Muscat and Frankenthaler vines (one each) for two summers now and not even one flower between them, let alone a grape. Disease is a problem too – misshapen leaves, discolouration etc. Only this week I bit the bullet and winter pruned the Frankenthaler as most of the leaves had turned red and seemed to be rotting too, and I was worried about the malady further damaging the plant.

    Last week a journalist contacted me asking about commercial wineries in Ireland (I live in Cork) and I was trying to explain to her that, while there are a couple of ‘wineries’ here, the term ‘commercial’ is putting it too strongly and that Ireland is a disaster for grape growing. Then she asked if there are any *organic* vineyards in Ireland. Santo Cielo!

  2. Douglas, this was in Jamie’s back garden I believe in London somewhere. (Quote me if I’m wrong Jamie).
    At least the riper grapes look healthy – might be a limited supply at harvest time though! We will have to wait and see….

  3. But even if it doesn’t ripen, all’s not lost! Just turn it into a stunning new cult blanc de noirs base wine. A few years in magnum (if you’ve got enough) on 2ndary ferment lees, and bob’s your uncle.

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  5. thanks for the most accessible information on hen and chicken. I really ‘get’ the sweet and sour’. Feel that only charlatan winemakers would accept hen and chicken fruit but am I wrong? I wanted to make rose from shiraz at about 11degrees. Hen and chicken clearly evident and no, I have not yet told our winemaker.
    Any comments most gratefully received

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