Can impacts on veraison toy with business plans?

Recently I replied to a Twitter post about a Pinot grape that had both red and green colourization. In my reply I said off the cuff that this is the beginning of the “Pinot Grinoir”, to concatenate both the terms Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grape varietal.

While I was poking fun at naming conventions, it never occurred to me, until now, to suggest that the grape I was looking at was indeed the object of what is known as veraison in the wine industry.

Embedded below is the tweet.  I thank Julien Miquel (Twitter: @JMiquelWine) for telling the world about the genetic process inherent in this grape.

I asked Julien if the result of the half-and-half nature could be attributed to a chemical reaction or something natural.  Julien replied back that he believed it was a natural phenomena.

Veraison is the process where a grape takes on a distinctive array of colours, as it ripens.  Some may call veraison simply as the ripening process for grapes.  Both are right.  In the case of the Pino Gris (or Pinot Grigio grape – a variant of Pinot Noir), the colours range from pinkish, to orange-pink, to brownish pink, to coppery gray to a pale, dusty purple.  Part of its DNA, this transition is natural as the grape grows and matures.  I always thought that veraison meant colour changes throughout the whole grape.  In this case, it appears to happen on only one side.  Regardless, grapes have their own unique characteristics.

Today I want to consider how climatic interruptions could impact the veraison process and, in turn, vineyard operations in general.

Pinot Gris
Pinot Gris

In a near-perfect world, – at least for our Pinot grape – Pinot will mature to its fullest, culminating in the event where their liquid presence graces us with a unique blend of distinct and splendid characteristics that gives wine based on Pinot its verve.  But grapes, like humans, do not live in a perfect let alone near-perfect world.  Variations in weather could slow down the veraison process making the growing season longer.  Ultimately, grapes have to be harvested at some point in order to meet demands associated with the process of converting grapes to wine, or perhaps selling grapes on the open market as part of the supply chain.  There may be other things to consider that control when grapes are harvested, such as contracts and competitive demands, too.  For now, assume we have constraints.  After all, what business doesn’t when it is trying to make money from a product as fine as wine?

So take the Pinot Gris grape.  According to the University of California, Davis the conditions, or terroir, upon which the grape grows are a cool climate and a long growing season.  It is harvested at no more than 23.5 degrees Brix (sugar content) which means there is approximately 23.5 grams of sucrose per 100 grams of solution in a mature grape. Vigour is considered mildly moderate and yields are determined by soil depth and temperatures.

The cooler the temperature the better, allegedly.  Even more so the longer the growing season, perhaps well into the 225-plus days range, maybe even more.  Some growing seasons, such as in California, for example, can extend as long as 325 days.

From a business analytics perspective, it pays to monitor seasonal temperatures and the effects of weather overall on the growing of particular grapes.  I am not suggesting a vineyard manager stress about summer temperatures being off by a few degrees from historical norms, but should consider the impact of changes in temperature over time on the selection of grape varietals to grow in a particular region should the need be warranted.

The effects of rain, wind, dryness, sunshine and humidity also impacts the choice of which grapes to grow and cultivate.  It also impacts the time it takes for veraison to occur.  If weather and other atmospheric conditions change the time it takes for a grape, like the Pinot Gris, to achieve its maturity, there might be a need to assess the costs and benefits of growing that particular grape if the optimal results can no longer be achieved or sustained at levels of quality expected.

And what does this mean for operations?  Well, I can only say that if the decision is made to add new varietals based on global weather patterns, or because of a need to change to a new varietal because a previous varietal is just not cutting it anymore, a new investment of money, time and human resources is required to effect the change.  This is why is pays to focus attention on how long it takes for a grape varietal to process through veraison to achieve the desired sugar content and maturity akin to making great wines based on the grape chosen to plant.  Transition periods are normal.  Planning for them is also part of the business process.  Whole varietals could be replaced, allegedly, if there is a good transition plan in place.

An alternative is to plant vines deeper into the soil and monitor soil temperature on an ongoing basis (see related blog about using data to monitor water content in the terroir).  But again, digging deeper, planting vines and employing monitoring techniques using either manual or electronic methods costs money and requires a very rigorous cost-benefit analysis in order to help management make decisions about how to proceed with least risk and optimal value.  Data, in this case, is important.

The process of veraison as seen through then lens of a camera is both beautiful, interesting and thought provoking.  The business impact from weather patterns, atmospheric conditions and environmental patterns on choosing, planting, growing and harvesting grapes requires an interest in, or need for, data management and a desire to rethink strategy and execution, as needed.

Specific grapes change their colours over time.  Business also needs to change with shifting conditions.

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