Veraison For winemakers, veraison is one of the most exciting stages in the grapevine lifecycle, not only because it lets us know that harvest is right around the corner, but also because it's the first really good opportunity for us to get an indication of the quality we can expect for the vintage, assuming the weather behaves itself from now on.

Veraison is the term used to describe the onset of ripening, going hand in hand with colour change from green to purple in red grapes and a general softening of the grape berry. At this stage the grapes officially end their growth phase and start to ripen, focusing all their energy into the berry clusters. For most of the growing season the berries are hard, green and chock-full of acid, but once veraison begins, sugar accumulation takes off at the speed of light and the berry starts to taste fruity and sweet. At the same time, acidity decreases as malic acid (the sort of tart acidity that's found in Granny Smith apples) is degraded. Phenolics also start to ripen, including colour, tannin and aromatic compounds. Colour change in red grapes is quite obvious as the berries move from green to pink to purple, but colour changes also take place in white grapes, which lose their vivid bright green colouring and become more yellow in hue. Tannins start to lose their bitter green edge and taste riper, softer and more textural; while more fruity aromatics take pride of place in the juice of the berry, pushing aside the greener, more herbaceous Phenolics as they, too, start to degrade. Although softening and colour change can happen over just 24 hours in a single berry, even in the very best conditions, veraison occurs unevenly across clusters, usually taking a week or so for the entire vineyard to turn completely. We generally find that once a vineyard is 80% through veraison we can expect to harvest the fruit in around 3 - 4 weeks time. Veraison also gives us the first real inklings of what to expect quality-wise for the upcoming vintage. We want to see a consistency of ripening from berry to berry, from cluster to cluster and vine to vine, across the entire vineyard block. Consistency of ripening creates a better wine. It allows us to harvest the fruit when all the berries are at the same optimum ripeness and therefore optimum flavour. Inconsistency means there is always some under-ripe and some over-ripe fruit in the mix and the overall flavour will just never be as good. Once most of the bunches have ripened, unevenly ripened bunches will be removed from the vine.