Posted by Josh Bergström
Every one of Oregon’s last 12 vintages that I have been involved with have been marked by unique climactic events—the kind of natural, agricultural-driven events that force the best wineries to put in extra efforts and expenses to ensure a great vintage despite Mother Nature. This is the kind of effort that makes CPAs and CFOs cringe.
Like 2001, and 2006, this upcoming 2008 vintage is marked by random green berries. That is to say, perfect purple clusters of ripe berries, each one containing between 1 and 10 berries that are, for some reason, green, hard and decidedly unripe. There are many factors that can create these green berries, but I believe that either sunburn or slow and prolonged flowering are the prime suspects in this vintage. Not every vineyard has them, but most of the 85 different clonal blocks that I pull fruit from in the Willamette Valley do.
Here, wineries have a tough decision to make; either you send the vineyard crews back through the vineyards to remove these berries by hand, at massive expense, or you deal with them as you find them on the sorting table. That is, if you have a sorting table. One green berry in a tank of ripe fruit will not make a difference in the eventual taste of the wine. But you can imagine how 1-10 hidden green berries per cluster in a tank of 10,000 clusters could mark a vintage with herbal flavors and astringent acid levels. Even worse, imagine the challenge of trying to find green berries on Chardonnay or Riesling clusters in which the berries are very close to green to begin with.
In both 2001 and 2006, I sent my teams back through the vineyards to delicately remove these green berries with needle-nosed pruning shears, while making sure to not damage the adjacent berries. Then the fruit was sorted again at the picking bins, and once again on the sorting table. And I know many other colleagues who decided to do similarly at great expense.
So while we will not begin to harvest ripe fruit for another 10-14 days, we will begin our harvest in a different fashion this week, with green berry plucking.
Michael Richards — Carlton, Oregon — September 22, 2008 3:03pm ET
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — September 23, 2008 12:21pm ET
Josh Bergstrom — Portland, Oregon — September 23, 2008 6:56pm ET
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