Green is the new Noir

From John, August 9th, 2016
Unripe Pinot noir

Unripe Pinot noir

Green-cropping (selectively thinning excess fruit before it ripens) is the height of fashion amongst those seeking to make stellar wines, and with good reason. Because grapevines are programmed by evolution to maximize self preservation, given optimal conditions, they are inclined to produce more berries than winemakers want to see.  When a vine is carrying too much fruit, it fails to ripen that fruit properly.

A grape cluster might at first appear to be “on the money” with respect to sugar content and sometimes even color and acidity. But critical elements related to mouth feel, fullness and finish might not be there. This is particularly true with respect to Pinot noir, perhaps the most finicky of grape varieties when it comes to crop load.  In the Willamette Valley, the optimal yield usually translates to approximately 2-2.5 tons of Pinot noir per acre.

Fortunately for the astute winemaker, it was determined years ago that at the point when the developing seeds inside the grape start to harden (around 2 months before harvest), that cluster is exactly half the weight that it will be when ripe. As a result, at some point in July we usually know approximately what the crop is going to look like. And as soon as we have that information, it is time to immediately drop the excess crop onto the ground. The closer to harvest that one eliminates the overcropped fruit, the less beneficial is the effect to be had.

Eliminating crop even as it is blooming is perhaps the most effective time to achieve the greatest good, but obviously this involves a bit of a gamble that the ensuing set will be good and if you’re wrong, you may have very little crop at all! If you hit it right, the best fruit can be had from this scenario, but because this is so risky, we only use this technique on a limited number of vines.

And though it takes courage to drop beautiful clusters on the ground, at Cameron virtually every year requires a bit of crop adjustment to make the best wine possible.

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