We have been seeing veraison throughout the vineyards for over 3 weeks now–the Grenache is always the last to catch up and it is finally changing to red grapes now. Veraison marks the beginning of ripening: the small, tight green grapes begin to soften and change colors (red wine=red grapes), sugars (which convert to alcohol) and volume increase while acidity decreases. We see veraison first in the Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Viognier, then comes along Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blance, and Syrah and finally catching up to the rest of the gang are Mourvedre and Grenache. This is the time of year Phillip and Mary look at each other in wonderment, with fairly incredulous expressions such as, “Wow! It’s that time of year again? So soon? Can you believe how fast harvest comes ’round every year?, etc. etc. etc.”.
And a very unwelcome arrival veraison brings…birds!! If you happen to be in the wine country this time of year, you will observe long rows of vines covered in bright green or black netting, or hear the faint sound of “bird cannons”, or see all sorts of owl-eye balloons and silver strings waving in the wind. Vineyard owners go to great lengths to keep the birds from eating the developing sweet little morsels (photo on the left shows an example of the damage that we have in the Tempranillo). We have mylar (silver tape) tied to the fence line and vines. It waves frantically in the wind and discourages birds from landing. We also shoot off flares at sunrise (sorry neighbors!) and sunset to warn/scare the birds away. A vineyard can be decimated in a matter of minutes if a flock lands to eat. We go out at sunrise to warn away the scouts–there are 10 or so scouts that will come to the vineyard, check it out and then report back to their buddies. If we’re out in the vineyards, armed and ready when they arrive (shooting, dancing, shouting, whatever it takes!) then those scouts will give a very unfavorable report and we’ll be spared for a spell. Another very interesting tidbit: dry-farmed vines tend to ripen earlier because of the stress placed upon them to produce without summer irrigation. **Which causes a heck of alot more work!! Especially if our neighbors are slightly behind us in their ripening, then we’re the choice entre for a couple of weeks!
In the past we’ve experimented with bird cannons and predator bird calls playing in the vineyards, but after observing the birds for a couple of years, we see no advantage to using them. We have also decided not to use bird netting, it would be a logistical nightmare to install over our vines that are spaced 10 x 10 and 12 x 12–plus, is it biodegradable? Or is it just another useless item that will end up in the landfill for decades and decades? (That being said, is mylar biodegradable?…doubtful…if only we lived in a perfect world.)