Harvest News! Year of Labrusca!!!
Well, today, I was testing and tasting grapes. Every year is always an exciting year for grapes. There is another story to tell. This year, it has been a very cold year. A lot of the grapes are behind schedule. I have been a little disheartened about this. If it is too cool of a season, the risk is that the vines will have more acid in them; thus, the wine will taste sharp and out of balance. Ironically though, I believe this year is the year for some of the Labrusca grape varieties. Elmer Swenson bred a lot with a species known as Vitis Labrusca. It is the same family of grapes that Concord comes from. In fact, that really "grapey" taste, same taste in grape candy or pop that everybody is familiar with, well that taste is specific to this one species, Vitis Labrusca. For instance, if you buy grape juice in Europe, it tastes totally different just because they don't have this species of grape there. So, they use their species for grape juice, Vitis Vinifera. With wine, a little bit of this is grapey or "foxy" taste is ok. People even really seem to like it, but if you have too much of this taste, it can throw the whole wine off. The interesting thing is that when we have a really hot season, these Labrusca grape varieties produce this foxy compound (methyl anthranilate) a lot and so we often pick before the grape is actually completely ripe so this doesn't get out of balance. This year though... since it is a cool season... they don't seem to be producing it as much.
Hence, I think we'll get a grape in the end that at a given sugar level will have all the flavors we want and need, but not so much of that foxy taste to overpower the wine. So hurray hurray! For the University of MN varieties... I might grade this season a D so far. We will probably have to blend and age some of these wines out a bit more before they're a little more approachable but for varieties like Brianna, Edelweiss, Sabrevois, St. Croix... I think this is going to be a strong season in the end. It seems to be the year for Labrusca! So, those who like Schnickelfritz, Mein Onkel, Nordsuss, Gemutlichkeit there is probably a perfect vintage to come! So, I invite you to hope with me for a good harvest in the end, because that's what wine and agriculture as a whole are all about. Hoping the crop comes in, the wine is good, and the people come.... It is all hope by which we survive. As Anna says, "Hope dies last."
PS: So far it looks like we are going to start harvesting around September 10th, but the exact dates are not determined yet. We will contact our harvest volunteers in email or phone call, as soon as we know which days are going to be harvest days.