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Dave Potter
August 13, 2008 | Dave Potter

Sweet and Sour

I posted a couple months ago about the frost that hit California and the impact it had, specifically on some Santa Ynez Valley vineyards. The long and the short of it is that, the frost has dropped yields by as much as 30% in some places and some vineyards are all but wiped out. Low yields, while being painful to grape growers (who get paid by the weight of grapes their vineyards can produce), can be good news for winemakers (think of grapevines pumping all the flavor that would go into 3 grapes into 1 grape instead). As harvest approaches and we are cruising through veraison (the time when the grapes start to color up), it has become quite a bit easier to see the impact of the frost on ripening and uniformity in the vineyards. The photo above was snapped yesterday in a Syrah block and is pretty typical of what happens in a vineyard that was frosted after fruit was set... basically a little bit (like less than 5% in this case) of the original or primary crop survived and is ripening at its normal time. As a survival mechanism to the frost, the vines shot a second crop of fruit which is about 4-6 weeks behind the primary crop - where it should be. As a result, this sweet and sour effect starts to happen where there are some very sweet ripe grapes and some sour grapes with undeveloped flavors that are way behind. This can make picking decisions difficult where the sugar levels are high and the acid levels are high and the flavors are overripe and underripe, all at the same time! Typically, this is more of a problem in early ripening varieties, or sparkling wine production.  So with a little luck (knock on wood // fingers crossed), the moderate but warm conditions we have been enjoying this summer will continue, and the fruit will begin to even out over the course of the season. At any rate, just like every other harvest, it should be interesting to see how everything shapes up. I will keep you posted...


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