In grape growing, the onset of veraison signals the beginning of ripening. As many of the terms in viticulture and wine-making are, the term veraison is French, and it's the fancy way to say "color change" in grapes or berries. All wine grapes start out as light green berries, and as they mature, their skin color changes and we can see the difference in what are called red varieties and white varieties. In truth, grapes never become red or white in color. Red and white are actually better descriptors of wine color. For example...
Frontenac grapes when ripe are a very deep purple. At the onset of veraison, the berries will change from green to light purple to dark purple. When pressed to juice, the color of the skins is the dominant factor in the color of the wine...and young red wine is indeed almost purple in color. Aging, especially over a long period of time in oak barrels, will turn the wine from purple to red. Color in red wine is a good indicator of age. The more vibrant the color, the younger the wine. The more brick red the color, the older the wine. And older is good, right? Maybe, maybe not. But that's a whole 'nother story. In the case of Frontenac grapes, we can also minimize the color by removing the juice from the skins early in the process. We make a wine called Magenta that is a brilliant...wait for it...magenta color. We accomplish this by separating the dark skins from the juice early on, thereby lightening and brightening the color.
Veraison in white wine varieties is much harder to see. The berries stay green for a long time, and the first sign of ripening is what I like to call freckles. Tiny brown dots begin to appear on the skins, and after a few weeks, subtle color change occurs. The ripe grapes never become white...they are golden in color. Inside, the juice is very light in color, and when pressed immediately off the skins, white or almost clear juice is produced. Age and barrel time also affect white wine, and an older wine may begin to take on a straw color. Good or bad? Hard to say. Some white wines age very well, and more color simply indicates a white wine that has likely aged for a few years. What really matters is taste...your taste and no one else's. We always like to say the first rule in wine drinking is that there are no rules. Just drink what you like!
Until next time...Cheers!