The Final Countdown

Veraison and Preparation

In Winemaking
on 21 Aug 14

About three weeks ago, I arrived at the vineyard to find a transformation in our grapes. Foch clusters that were green just a few days ago were suddenly black and plump. The somerset, too, had turned a lovely pinkish-brownish-grey and was delicious to taste. It felt early, but veraison had begun, and with it, the countdown to the 2014 harvest.

Somerset grapes

It's been an odd season, from the polar vortex and subsequent winter kill to the unseasonably mild (60s and 70s) temperatures we're having on and off this month. What the vines need right now is a good hot dry September, and it will be interesting to see when they announce themselves. Last year harvest at Mitchell began on September 1 (my first day on the job), but Dave predicts opening to the public for picking on September 9. The extra week or two should give the grapes the extra time they need to ripen.

While the weather's been slightly unusual, the fruit is beautiful and clean; it's a small but great-looking crop. My coworkers and I can't stop snacking on the seedless, sweet somerset grapes, which are already showing vanilla, nutmeg, and tangerine flavors. As for me, I've been eyeing the gorgeous foch and millot for a possible home winemaking venture during harvest. If I get brave enough I may try to make some muscat, too––it's easily one of Wisconsin's most promising grapes.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.