“Drop crop”… “Green Thinning”… “Green Harvest”… Whatever you like to call it the term is literal and refers to removing green, immature clusters and dropping them on the ground. It may seem a bit obtuse to be removing perfectly viable fruit that isn’t even mature yet, but it’s often done in the name of flavor intensity and it can happen at several times during the growing season.
The first round may be just after flowering and fruitset, which typically happens in mid to late May. Winter pruning and springtime shoot thinning are done with certain yields in mind. If the vines are overly generous on any given year it’s smart to thin out the excess so the rest can ripen properly and be flavorful, not diluted in taste.
When the grapes turn color – here’s another wine word for you – the color change is called veraison – it’s not uncommon to notice some clusters that are reluctant to turn and are lagging behind. If they’re not removed, they may add green, under-ripe flavor and throw off the sugar averages (Sugar is important! It provides the alcohol) as harvest gets closer. It’s also beneficial to keep the clusters from crowding each other to keep mildew problems down. Depending upon the vintage and the philosophy of the decision maker, this sort of green harvest may require more than one pass through the vineyard.
Occasionally, there may be even more cluster thinning after veraison is finished. A few years back, the weather was so cool that growers were concerned that the grapes wouldn’t ripen. So, many of them stripped all the leafy growth away from the “fruit zone,” to increase light exposure, and thinned clusters to make it easier for the vines to ripen the remaining ones.
And, I can remember when growers were thinning at almost the last minute for a very different reason: the crop size was normal but the humidity got so low that some of the clusters started to dehydrate. That calls for irrigation and, perhaps, thinning again to keep most of the clusters nice a plump.
You can see that winegrowing is quite laborious for the top producers. The old saying that the best wines come from vineyards with lots of footprints in them rings true.
I’ll keep you updated as things progress! Cheers!
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