It’s veraison season. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s veraison season. What could possibly go wrong?

By Scott Elliff

By the time you read this, our DuCard Vineyards grapes will be in the ‘veraison’ stage of ripening, where the berries start to soften and turn color.  It’s pronounced ‘ver-ay-zon’ but most of us have Americanized it as ‘ver-ay-sion’.  No matter – sort of mumble it and give it a little French flair and we’ll know what you mean.

It’s a great time of year as it gives us a major hint and nod that all the growing season work we’ve put in to date just might pay off.  During this period the grapes evolve from hard, light green pebbles to translucent yellow gold luscious globes with concentrated sugars and aromas (for white grapes like Viognier and Chardonnay) and to dark blue-purple orbs packed with distinctive varietal character (for reds like Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot).  White harvest is about 30 day away, and red harvests about 60 days out.

Exciting for sure.  And hey, what could possibly go wrong ??

Well, rain for one.  A big rainstorm will dump buckets of water that grapevine roots will absorb and push out into the berries, diluting them and delaying ripening – in effect offsetting much of the work that’s been done to date during the growing season.  We are happy with a total drought, and recognize we’re not very realistic.

Humidity for another.  Ah, August and September in Central Virginia.  Dripping with it.  The risk for us is mildew and rot and a potentially ruined crop.  So we’re constantly stripping off excess leaves to improve airflow in the vine rows and increase sunlight penetration on the berries.

Weather that’s cloudy, or cool … or even super hot.  Not asking much there either.  This year in Bordeaux it’s been up to 115 degrees – literally frying the grapevine and fruit, with potentially devastating results for their industry.

Insects, too.  There are several highly specialized insects that wait patiently until the grape skins are soft and vulnerable, and then they seek to drill into the berries to lay their eggs.  Not so terrific.  And by drilling through the grape skin there’s increased potential for various diseases to penetrate the berries, and spread through the full vineyard.  Doubly not terrific.

Deer, raccoons and groundhogs can take the crop, Bears too.  In some years we’ve lost 30% of our crop.  Those of us in Forest Lakes all know a little bit about deer, right?  But we’ve upped our game this year, installing an eight foot fence around the entire vineyard – and a few “deer keep out” signs for good measure.

And let’s not even mention birds.  Picture the Hitchcock movie, ripe with underlying tension that the billions of birds out there could choose to swarm our vineyard, eating some of the berries and just pecking away at others, rendering them vulnerable to damage, as above.  Thank goodness they don’t know the full power that they have!

It’s farming and one thing we know for sure is that farmers are constantly complaining.

If there’s any good news it’s that we are prepared for these potential problems – seen that movie before, not our first grape rodeo, etc.  And for this year we are at least starting out in a good position, with healthy vines, decent weather to date, good sunlight, diligent work practices used by our top notch staff, and more. We have the potential at least for an excellent crop that continues the tradition and growing reputation for quality we have developed at DuCard.

We’ll all just wait and see what happens. And appreciate your support if you happen to be personal friends with Mother Nature.

About the Author: Elliff is the owner of DuCard Vineyards located in Etlan, Virigina.

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