…or so they say. Though it doesn’t feel like we’re winning any races as we wait for the grapes to ripen. (The wining, however, is well underway!)

Proof that we’ve had lots of rain this year; this data shows the rain this year (green) compared to the five year average (grey), as well as temperature ranges for this year (yellow) and the 5 year average (blue).

We’ve had a lot of rain through the summer, nearly twice as much as the average rainfall during April to August. Temperatures have been close, but not quite as hot, and the cooler days have been a little more frequent than usual as well. Fortunately for us, September is proving to be slightly drier than usual (quick, knock on wood, the month isn’t over yet!), and we’re all holding our breaths that the weather holds out long enough for the grapes to ripen nicely without any diseases.

While the Pinot Noir (left) appear to be developing into larger berries in tighter clusters, the Cabernet Franc (centre) and other Bordeaux varieties appear to be slightly smaller berries with looser clusters, which should have an impact on the intensity of the final wines. Smaller berries offer a higher concentration of tannins and anthocyanins (that which brings colour to red wine) to berry pulp/juice, so perhaps we will see lighter Pinots and more intense, concentrated Cabernets this year. At the Two Sisters vineyard (right), the rain has made these clusters grow ?

Sugar has been slow to develop, with véraison lasting over 20 days thanks to the sun playing hide-and-seek with our little clustered heliophiles. At Tawse we started picking on September 14, and picked a few tons for four days (for sparkling wines, where we want higher acidity and lower sugar levels) but have decided to pause for a few days to let the grapes ripen a little more.

Just a tractorful of berries makes the harvest start in the most delightful way. As long as the sunny days continue, the rest of the harvest should come in nicely.

Up on the Bench (local shorthand for the Niagara Escarpment), many of the wineries are also on pause like us or proceeding slowly with sparkling. Down on the plains, however, the harvest is in full swing for hybrid and volume grapes in particular.

At the Molek Farm, the machine harvester is collecting a white hybrid called Geisenheim (upper right), which will be sold to a bigger winery. Here hybrids are typically used for volume wines. On this farm, volume grapes are pruned to six canes (left) – there are 3 levels of grapes: can you see them all? They have big bunches, and the vines receive little trimming (canopy management) during the season, so look a little wild. These grapes (lower right) may be Riesling, or some close relative, as I think I see the signature brown speckling of ripe Riesling berries.

Since we’re not picking anything, we’re busying ourselves by making sure the crush pad and vinification equipment are prepped and ready to go.

Unlike the press I was used to last year in Alsace (left) where the grapes are squeezed in a mostly sealed-off environment, the presses at Tawse (centre) expose grapes to oxygen during the crush (see the slits on the side); a different style of vinification. Off the crush pad, the new French barrels are also coming in – one of my jobs is to number and brand them with the Tawse logo.

10 points to you if you were about to make a joke about how all the wines will be sweet this year because they are all late harvest… Even though our harvest is later than usual, this doesn’t make everything we’re producing late harvest wines, as such. (OK, I guess I can see why people think wine is complicated.) As you know well by now, a late harvest wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine past their ‘normal’ ripe period, causing a concentration of the sugars, which makes the wine sweet. We’re nowhere near that yet, so are keeping ourselves busy with other kinds of concentrated sugars.

The house that brews together stays glued together: we’re putting idle bottling line skills to work with the homebrew. This week – Belgian IPA! And while we’ve got dessert wines on the brain, this Riesling bottle becomes a rolling win(!) as I try my hand at baking with my Nana’s old recipes.

But of course this idyllic calm comes to a close all too quickly. As of this week, we’re finally seeing the sugar levels we want for our sparkling grapes, and they’re all ready to come in at the same time! Lots of harvesting ahead of us – I’ll see you on the other side.

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2 thoughts on “slow and steady wines the race

  1. Salut Car, bravo pour ce blog! C’est une super idée pour maintenir ton français et nous garder au courant de tes aventures canadiennes. A Bordeaux les vendanges sont désastreuses ! A très vite

    • Merci Gonzague!! Tu peux voir que j’étais très occupé – normalement je ne réponds pas si tard! Nos vendanges étaient aussi difficiles, surtout pour le Pinot Noir. En fait, je suis en train d’écrire le prochain post, maintenant que la thèse est terminée. À bientôt, à Bordeaux!

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