I pluck a Viognier to sample.
my favorite part of our vineyard labors is this time of year, as we track the different varieties of ripening grapes. when we arrive at the farm, the first thing we do is take a walking tour of the proofing vines. my husband points out vines that are doing well or various possible diseases, pests, and other objects of note for each concept row. the best part is when we taste the grapes and i'd like to explain to you how my husband taught me to get the full vineyard grape experience.
First, pick the berry (individual grape) of your choice and pop it in your mouth, smashing the grape against your upper palate. here, we have the Viognier. what do you taste? the viognier is a great one to experience as it ripens. at first, i taste just apples, but as the weeks go by, i can taste cinnamon flavors with the apple. midway through the ripening phase, i sometimes taste a bit of pear with the apples until it starts to fully get its suger on and that's when i start to taste persimmon. which, as you go through the season and experience the whole growing season first hand--its a truly exciting experience.
Second, you want to separate the skin from the pulp. i tuck the skin against my teeth and sort out the seeds from the pulp.
Third, spit the seeds into your hand. yes. do it. its the best part. now, as you look at the seeds, you want to mash up the pulp and then the skin as you look at the seeds. first things first, what's the mouth feel of the pulp? how intense are the tannins in the skins? what are the flavors? as i chew the pulp and skins, i'm also looking at the seeds. how much of the pulp is still on the seeds? as the berry ripens, the seeds get cleaner until there is no pulp on them and they spit clean. what colors are the seeds? green seeds means new grapes. if the seeds are speckled green and brown, those grapes are riper. deep brown seeds are ripe seeds. now, regardless of color, pop the seeds back into your mouth and chew. whew! green seeds are loaded with pucker power and most likely, you'll spit those puppies out. the speckled seeds are easier to bear, but still full of astringent taste from hard tannins. i have learned to enjoy the speckled stage and find eating the deep brown seeds--with mellower tannins--a pleasure, just as much as the rest of the fruit. that's how to taste a grape while in a vineyard. so, how does the viognier measure up?
Mmm, not there, yet. we will perform a sugar test on the grapes later in the day and that is another (and more reliable) indicator that harvest time has arrived. until then, happy tasting! 5