Through the Grapevine

It takes moxie to grow wine grapes in th​e Mid​west.​

Yet nestled among Indiana's acres of corn and soybeans, squeezed between hog operations and strip malls, is a thriving wine industry.

In this multimedia series, we give you the insider's eye on Indiana wines. Tune in each Tuesday for a snobbery-free exploration of a host of viticulture and enology topics including herbicide drift, climate change, cork taint and polyphenol antioxidants.

Whether you're a college student who's bored of the keg, a know-how-it's-grown foodie, or someone who wants to face the wall of bottles at the supermarket without breaking into a sweat—this series is for you.


​​​​​Week 3: Picking at the Peak

By Natalie van Hoose

On a September morning, a group of Purdue University students trudges into the vineyards at the Meigs Horticulture Research Farm south of Lafayette, Ind. Selecting a pair of pruning shears and gloves, they crouch among the vines and examine the low-hanging grapes, looking for the most pristine clusters.

The highlight of the entire grape-growing season is here—it's harvest time.

Grape Harvest

For weeks, the grapes have been ripening in a process known as "veraison," transforming from hard, opaque berries into soft, translucent fruit. Their color deepens, sugar levels rise, and they develop the flavor and aroma compounds that make wines unique.

But choosing the right time to harvest is no simple task. The winemaker can analyze the sugar content and acidity of the grapes, but because many of the flavors and aromas do not emerge until after fermentation, what lies in a grape is just the specter of the wine it will produce.

In the following video, Purdue viticulture specialist Bruce Bordelon and professor of enology and winemaker Christian Butzke explain the science—and guesswork—behind deciding when to harvest wine grapes.

Purdue viticulture specialist Bruce Bordelon and professor of enology Christian Butzke explain how choosing the right time to harvest wine grapes is both a science and an art.

Credits: Photos by Tom Campbell. Video by Kelsey Getzin. Web version by Andrew Banta. Through the Grapevine graphic by Russ Merzdorf.

Next Tuesday: Indiana's wine industry may be small, but we've got something big to boast about—a top spot in the history of American winemaking. Tune in next week for the story of enterprising winemaker John James Dufour and the country's first commercial winery.

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