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October 16, 2009


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We're supposed to be getting back into the 60s next week here on Long Island as well.

It hasn't been AS cold as you've had it up there, but it's been in the 40s quite a bit -- yet I'm not hearing anyone talk about it being "over" by any stretch. Someone did make a comment to me yesterday though that their vineyard manager was working overtime to make sure that there'd "be some reds to bring in later."

Evan, based on what Peter is saying here, will there not be any reds made at Fox Run this year? I can't imagine that (other than pinot noir) any are ripe enough to do much with besides rose, right?

Hopefully some of our Cornell-based readers can chime in here. I'm going to send a note to our local Cornellian, Alice Wise, asking her to chime in on what she's seen down here.

Lenn - Fox Run's Pinot Noir is in and I've been told that (not only at Fox Run) sugars are a bit low and acids are high with Bordeaux reds. Peter explains that it's too early to make any final call, but it might simply require some winemaker assistance. Of course, I don't want to speak for him.

But it's interesting here -- some firmly believe that sugar synthesis won't start anew. Others are convinced it can and will.

Interesting. Hopefully some of our science-y friends will chime in, along with some other experienced grape growers who may have seen a situation like this before.

There are numerous factors involved in sugar development but from my experience, if you have a healthy green canopy, a balanced crop load that is well exposed and (most importantly) enough sunlight and temperature, there's no reason to think the vines won't keep photosynthesizing and producing sugar. It all depends on the integrity of the fruit and the cooperation of the weather.
We like to hang our crop as long as possible and routinely leave merlot and cabs out in all kinds of weather, well into November. Right now our canopies are bright green and look like they can still do plenty of work.
One thing I have noticed this season is that fruit maturity and flavor development are well ahead of the sugars. This is way more important than sugar accumulation imo.

Fox Run will certainly make the usual complement of reds this year. As Richard says, sugar is not as important (even in a better year) as flavor synthesis and 'resolution' of tannins.

A few further considerations, again probably more anecdotal than they should be (and taking into account that I am not a viticulturist):

1. A late season rise in sugar can be explained by dehydration of the berries, rather than sugar synthesis.

2. Green leaves post harvest are a good thing for the vine, in terms of allowing sugars to be stored in the woody tissue. There may be some justification to picking at a 'normal' time for this reason alone.

3. My definitive test for whether the grapes can do any more true ripening is to kick the trunk of the vine. If grape berries fall off, it's game over.

I echo what Rich has to say on this subject. If there is a healthy canopy and the fruit has integrity, the vineyards are poised to continue maturing fruit. Through all this cold weather, I am seeing stems hardening beautifully and seeds getting as brown as roasted coffee beans. If the canopies hold up, the grapes, if need be, can potentially mature and accumulate sugar for another 3 weeks...or more. For NOW, I'm sleeping at night.

Rich, Peter and Richie have said it all.
We have had such precedents: in 2000 and in 2001, at this time, we were not much further ahead from where we are this year. Yet we ended up making Grand Vintage wines both year, harvesting the last batch on December 7, 2001. For those not familiar with Paumanok, Grand Vintage wines are only so designated when the quality reaches a very high level and are not made every year.

Will we make Grand Vintage wines this year? I am not sure, but at the same time I am not ruling it our either. It ain't over until it is over!!

I also wanted to second Rich O-H on his assessment that phenolic and flavor maturity are more important than (and sometimes independent of) Brix and TA. You can add sugar, and you can take away acid, but you can't add flavor!

Since Evan brought this up on Twitter yesterday i have been combing the literature on grapevine photosynthesis. I'm sure PB would agree that in the absence of scientifically rigorous studies, we must use anecdotal evidence to guide us. But people have to have studied this, if not in grapes then in other plants at least. This could be fodder enough for an entire boring science post!

I really like the imagery of Peter's kick test. I've also noted the inevitability of end-game scenarios with a kick test, but mostly with automobiles and major appliances.

My pinot noir grapes saw an increase in 1º brix today. It happened in like 10 seconds.

Not losing sleep tonight, my coffee just may not be as sweet tomorrow morning.

We have already had a couple of frosts here in the HV. i think all we can do is play the historian. In 100 years people can look back at the harvest data and figure it all out, when to harvest, whats late, whats early, whats a good, average, bad year ... we are like people with 6 pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw and we think we can say something about the picture.

its interesting how cagey winemakers get aroung harvest time, especially when asked about brix. people have to stop being ashamed of adding sugar and own up to the realities of farming wine grapes in NY.


Here at Sheldrake Point, we're letting things hang. Our chard came in two days ago, much of the Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir will get picked this week, and I have every reason to think that the Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Riesling won't be in until November.

I just sampled Cab Franc on Thursday, and it was a wierd experience--there were no green flavors, and a lot in the way of good red fruit flavors, but the sugar tasted low and the acid tasted high (as was confirmed by chemistry). This was also true in Riesling: good flavors but bad chemistry. But that's okay--even after the leaves are gone, I find that acids drop (I don't know why--does anyone else?) and sugars rise (probably just due to concentration).

And for now, the canopies look good, even after the vineyards hit 28F earlier this week. No snow in the vineyards for us yet, though I had maybe 2-3 inches on my car in Trumansburg on Thursday morning.

I think it'll be a stellar year for Riesling, and likely even a good year for reds.


Here's what

Sorry about the last post everyone.

Here's most of what I wrote in my weekly update to the industry today:

With the return of some warmer, drier weather this week, some questions have arisen regarding how the vines will function, and any resulting impacts on fruit parameters, over these next several days. There are basically two questions, in various forms, that I’ve heard.

Question #1: After a week of very cold temperatures, will the leaves that were not damaged (and are still green) still be able to photosynthesize and produce sugars when it warms up?

I asked Alan Lakso this question this morning. He told me that he went out to measure photosynthesis rates on green leaves last week and found that they were still active. He was going to try to get out and check again today or tomorrow to see where rates might be at this point, and I will try to let you know what he finds out. This makes sense physiologically – as long as there is green chlorophyll to intercept sunlight and there is adequate water and nutrient availability, photosynthesis can occur. However, even if the leaves are still active, I would not count on significant accumulations of sugar in the berries at this point. We have a couple more days forecast in the 60s, but with clouds and chances of rain before we drop back to the 50s again by the end of the week. It seems likely that the more significant factor in changes in Brix at this point would be dehydration, more than photosynthesis. How does this impact flavor development in later varieties? I think that’s a more complex question, but knowing that the synthesis of flavor and aroma compounds is dependent on photosynthesis, I would guess that the amount of new compounds created will be pretty small, and that more significant changes would result, again, from dehydration. Given all of that, if the fruit remains clean and flavors continue to be good, and leaves are still green, it probably won’t hurt anything to leave the fruit hanging out there if you want to do that.

Question #2: In vineyards that have lost most of their leaves, does it make any sense to let fruit continue to hang in the hopes of losing some more acid before picking it?

We have been seeing higher than normal TA numbers in the samples that we have been taking, and this is also being seen by winemakers and growers in their samples as well. The hope is that, even if sugars don’t accumulate further, the acidity might still come down. While we don’t have solid research for this question, here’s the general consensus view from myself and a few faculty I discussed this with.

Even though leaves are gone, berries will continue to respire on the vine. Malic acid, one of several organic acids in grapes, is consumed during respiration in plants, so letting the fruit continue to hang may reduce the amount of malic acid in the berries, probably by a small amount. However, remember that tartaric acid is the primary organic acid in grapes at harvest, and it is not consumed to any significant extent in any physiological process. So as grapes are left to hang and begin to dehydrate, the concentration of acid can actually increase, which would counteract the whole objective of leaving the fruit to hang in the first place.

So in summary, if you have lost a lot of leaves from freeze damage or disease, there probably isn’t a good reason to continue to leave the fruit hanging. If most of the canopy is still fairly green and healthy, there is still the chance for small increases in sugar content, and possibly flavor and aroma compounds, so letting fruit continue to hang is an option, assuming it remains free of rot.


Thank you for going the extra mile to provide more insight into late season ripening, or lack thereof.

Here is an interesting question and I am not sure if or how it relates to grapes:

When we leave unripe tomatoes in the pantry they tend to ripen after a few days.
Similarly when we purchase pears or bananas from the supermarket, they tend to be somewhat under ripe and will further ripen left in a basket on the kitchen counter.

If it is true of other fruits and vegetables can it also be the case in grapes? Why or why not?



RE: Hans's comment on leaving grapes post-leaf-fall:

our experience in leaving fruit post-leaf-fall, for late harvest and icewine, in both Riesling and Cab Franc, is that we see very real losses in acidity. In 2008, the Brix and TA of our R2 Riesling block were 24.9 and 9.3 on 10/17, but 32 and 8.2 on 12/7 when we harvested the late harvest. So while the Brix increased by 25%, the acidity decreased by 10%.

Similarly, for CF in 2007, Brix went from 21.8 Brix and 6.2 TA on October 22nd to 39 Brix and 4 TA in February of the following year.

Other folks in the Finger Lakes who've done late harvest CF have seen similar changes, with large percentage increases in Brix and reasonable percentages decreases in TA.

So anyway, we still have leaves, but are planning to leave the fruit post-leaf-fall anyway, unless the acid drops markedly first (our CF has a TA of around 12 now).


Driving around Seneca Lake yesterday, it seems like any further ripening is a moot point -- the freeze of Sunday night / Monday morning has wiped out or severely damaged most of the canopies.

North of Dresden on the west side and around Caywood on the east side I saw some survivors, but a lot of growers were busy getting everything off to minimize their losses.

Pictures at:


John - Nice pics. I have to say that, having been in numerous vineyards this week, there's still quite a bit of variation. Some vineyards are torched by frost; others still have quite a bit of green. At Wiemer, the HJW Vineyard is shut down (and thus picked), while the Magdalena and Josef vineyards further north are still showing some green. This is a site-by-site harvest and vintage.

Evan -- HJW was toasted but still had Riesling hanging on the vine waiting for harvest. Josef took a fair hit as you can see in the first picture. Is there enough canopy left that it could have moved the numbers this late in the season? Personally, I think not. Magdalena, particularly the Merlot block along Route 14, had large areas that were untouched that I cataloged as one of the few survivors.

On the east side, I drove up 414 as far North as the Sullivan marker and saw more of the same. Caywood looked largely untouched, but that was the exception. Most of the vineyards were toast. A few had some green showing, but again, in my experience, it gets really difficult to move the numbers significantly at this time of the year without a full canopy and a good 10 day forecast.

I'm sure there are other survivors out there as you say -- I only had time for a quick look so I chose some of the warmest spots and vineyards I am familiar with to look at and form my impressions.

Charles - if my meager understanding of postharvest physiology and a little research are right, what's happening is that fruits like tomatoes, bananas, apples and peaches respond to ethylene (a plant hormone) more readily than grapes after they are harvested. Ethylene triggers many of the processes that are involved in fruit ripening. So the difference basically comes down to the fact that grapes do not continue to ripen like many other fruits because they do not respond to ethylene in the same way. Grapes still produce ethylene after they are picked (I believe), but they just don't react to it. Fruits and vegetables like grapes are called 'non-climacteric', while those like apples, bananas and such are called 'climacteric'.

Here's one of the references I looked at:

Hope that makes some sense.


Thanks again for shedding more light on this discussion. I have learned something through your replies.


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