Grape Growth 101
With the onset of veraison in much of the Napa Valley, I have written a basic primer on grape growth in the vineyard:
1) Grape growth in the early spring is started with BUD BREAK, this is defined as the first growth of green shoots at the growing position on the Cordon that was pruned in late winter. The Cordon is the stem that parallels the ground about 3 feet up.
2) The next month all the shoots or CANES have grown 3 to 4 feet up, then BLOOM will occur, this is when the flower is formed that later becomes a cluster of grapes. There is a 3 day window when we do not want heavy frost, rain or nasty wind, because any one of these three weather occurrences can damage the fruit set and make a mess of the future grape growing process.
3) After fruit is stable on the lower vine the cells in the embryo (each small green grape) begin to split and duplicate themselves resulting in a small growing stage, this lasts for 4 to 5 weeks.
4) Once the cells have finished duplicating the cell then gets fed from the vine and each one becomes larger and thus the grape gains in acid and carbohydrates, this can take 4 to 6 weeks. So the grape now gets even larger, this is when it is important to pull leaves off the vine near the grape cluster and near the cordon to allow sunlight to warm the grapes.
5) We now see the grapes begin to change color from green to light burgundy, this is called VERAISON and is the beginning of sugar forming in the grapes, derived from the remaining grape leaves and stems as well as the cordon. As sugar increases in the grape over the next 4 to 6 weeks the acid level decreases. Ripeness occurs when the winemaker determines the grapes are sweet enough and the pH level is perfect for making great wine.
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