Around this time of year, I like to take a quick review of the growing season so far. It’s a good time to reflect on what we know so far (quite a bit), what we’ll learn soon, and what we hope the harvest might be. I reviewed 2012 here last year.
2013 Chardonnay – a bit different than the last post
I discussed the two types of ripeness we tend to think about – physical, i.e. acidity & sugar, driven principally by heat. The other ripeness is phenological – color & flavor development – driven principally by time from flowering/bloom/set (which can mean slightly different things, but are generally used interchangeably).
We know quite a bit about the 2013 vintage already. The big news – harvest is coming early this year! After two late years (2010 & 2011), a ‘normal’ year (2012-although it was very dry at harvest…), it looks like we’re headed back to a September harvest start.
2013 started off quickly with some days in the 70’s in March. Almost immediately, we were ten days ahead of average. We had a bit of a cool down in the beginning of April, but heading into May, warm weather returned. Early on such heat is important – the grape has only begun to unfold its leaves – not much photosynthesis yet. The vine is dependent instead on rising temperature & pressure from the ground to drive growth.
All of this early heat led to an early start to bloom – and set. In the 2012 post I noted that set locked in the time element of our ripeness – 100 to 110 days to develop the flavor and color we want. In a year like 2010, we had the opposite – a late bloom gave us a late October harvest, balancing waiting for sugar vs. the threat of rain and cold.
2013 won’t be like that.
This early start to spring – and fruit set – will, instead, mean that our 100+ days will occur sometime in the 2nd half of September-not October. It also means getting the full potential heat of summer. Net result – generally – mean a lot of heating, driving sugar ripeness quickly. This is the kind of year in which the balancing act is to wait long enough for color development, but not too long – or you’ll end up with very high sugars – leading to high alcohol and overripe wines. It could be similar to 2006, 2009, 2004…
Or 2007. Remember that rainy harvest? Well, it started with an early spring as well, had decent heat (although not as much as 2006 or 2009) and then ran into early rains and some very difficult harvest decisions.
Such is the joy of growing wine in the Willamette Valley!