Friday, August 26, 2011

Dropping fruit on the ground... Intentionally!

There is an activity underway around the valley that I find mildly disturbing. Workers are cutting grape clusters off the vines and dropping them on the ground, intentionally.  It happens every year around this time.  There are two major reasons this is done.  Fruit that is obviously not maturing on the same schedule as the other clusters is cut off.  In the picture above, this would apply to the greenest clusters. But some of those other clusters don't look too bad. 

Those decent looking clusters are being cut off just to reduce the overall crop load.  If the overall crop load is too heavy, it will stress the vine and all the clusters may not fully ripen. I think most winemakers would agree their definition of ripeness is not just a measure of color & sugar content anymore. Many years ago, most grapes in the valley were deemed ready to harvest based solely on the % of sugar content.  That is no longer the case. I venture to say that most grapes being harvested in the Napa Valley these days are picked when the winemaker is happy with the flavors of the grapes.  This is winemaker directed harvesting.  It can drive growers crazy when the grapes are at say, 24 or even 25% brix, but the winemaker says "They're not ready yet".

Several of the vineyards farmed by Piña Vineyard Management for delivery to Piña Napa Valley, will have less fruit dropped on the ground this year. That's the good news.  The bad news is that the reason there will be less fruit dropped, is because there is less fruit on the vines than in past years.  Vines that were pelted with rain while in their "bloom" stage have a poor fruit "set".  For these vineyards, we're anticipating a light harvest this year.  It's a gambling business.  Always has been. 

1 comment:

Steve said...

We unfortunately didn't drop fruit or spray on our "long vine" grape. Lost the whole crop, except the turkeys and chickens liked the fruit.

Always seems wrong to prune or drop fruit, but pays off in the end.