A Mid-veraison Photo Essay
August 19, 2019
Although most of the 2019 growing season has been on the cool side, we've had a couple of warm weeks since my last update. Nothing extraordinary for August (when our average high temperature is 92°F) but the first half of the month saw an average high of 93.8°F and two days late last week topped 100°F. And then, the weather broke, and we had an absolutely stunning weekend, with highs of 73 and 74, a nice breeze off the ocean, and cool, crisp nights down in the 40s.
I took advantage of the cool this morning to hike through the vineyard and get a sense of where the different grapes are sitting in their path to harvest. Overall, I think we're just a touch before veraison's midpoint, maybe 40% overall. So, there are nearly as many berries pink or red as there are still green. Of course, that varies quite a bit by variety, and even within a variety, with cooler spots at the bottoms of hills a bit behind those same grapes at the tops of the hills. I'll take them in the order in which we saw veraison start.
Syrah is easily the most advanced red grape. I'd estimate it's at roughly 80% versaison. The clusters in the below photo are maybe a touch more advanced than average:
Although it will be late to harvest, Mourvedre actually went into veraison before Grenache. It's still only at about 40% through, I would estimate, and because it takes so long between veraison's end and when it's ready to pick, we're not likely to see it before October.
There is not much in a vineyard setting that is more beautiful than a Grenache cluster going through veraison. A single cluster can look like a rainbow:
I'd estimate that Grenache is only about 30% into veraison; the cluster above was unusually advanced.
Last week, I walked two different Counoise blocks and couldn't find any veraison except on a few weak vines. But this morning, I didn't have much trouble finding it. It's still far more green than red, and overall, I'd estimate it's only at 10% veraison:
White grapes go through veraison too, although it's hard to photograph the subtle color changes that they undergo. But as they get close to ripeness, you do start to see a yellower tint to the formerly-green grapes.
We're guessing that the first grape we'll get into the cellar will be Viognier. You can start to see the color change in the grape clusters in the photo below:
With the combination of plentiful rainfall last winter and our relatively mild summer, I saw fewer signs of stress than I can ever remember in mid-August. I'll share some shots that give you a little more of a view of the vines (in addition to the multicolored clusters). First, Syrah:
And second, another Counoise shot, maybe my favorite of the entire day. Counoise is typically looking a little ragged by now, with as much brown or yellow in its leaves as green. Not this year:
Overall, things look great as we turn into the home stretch. But we're going to have to be patient. We're starting to read stories about the grape harvest beginning in other parts of California, and even at Beaucastel things are getting close:
Syrah close to harvest. #familleperrin #beaucastel #syrah #rhonevalley #rhonevalleywines #winery #harvestPosted by Famille Perrin - Beaucastel on Monday, August 12, 2019
But here, we're going to have to wait a bit. I still don't expect grapes before September, and not much before the middle of the month.