It’s a great time in the vineyard when you see the fruit just push past veraison (the stage in the annual growth cycle of the grapevine where the grapes soften and begin to develop sugar).
The Pinot Noir fruit has passed 50% of its colour change from soft green into rich deep purples and indicates the rapid approach of vintage. I can finally get a feel for Vintage 2018 by wandering through the vines and peaking beneath the foliage.
The fruit looks strong and well developed, no “Hens & Chickens” in the clusters, also known by the French term, millerandage (a state when a grape bunch contains berries of different sizes and levels of maturity). The normal-sized, seeded berries are the “hens,” and the small, seedless berries are the “chickens.” It’s believed to be caused by cool weather during flowering. Such irregular clusters obviously affect the fruit yield and distribution of sugars and so we like to avoid them.
Although the fruit looks more than promising, the yield this year looks a little lower than in previous vintages. This is of little concern however as less fruit on the vine usually means better quality over all as the same amount of sugars and nutrients are being distributed through less clusters. Much like sharing a cake with fewer people – the pieces are larger.
However, one can speculate all they like but until I conduct my sampling run in the oncoming weeks I won’t know for sure, but that’s the game – the constant battle between reason and intuition.
Fortunately this year, they’re both telling me the same thing : 2018 looks extremely promising.