At the end of summer, in all the wine producing regions in the northern hemisphere, starts one of the most important period of the year: The harvest.
This time would arrive later, from February to April in the south hemisphere.
The winemaker choose a precise day to harvest each grape varieties that varies each year due to two main factors:
The climate of the vintage (the year of the said harvesting), the ripeness of the grain depends essentially on the weather, sunny and warm summers usually equals early maturation of the fruit.
The kind of wine he wants to produce, a more mature fruit will bring, after fermentation,
sweeter and stronger aromas and tastes.
Of course there are much more factors like the grape variety, the blending percentage and more… Which makes the decision of harvesting very complex, but yet decisive to achieve to make a great wine!
It is usually admitted that the latitude of where the parcel is situated has a big impact, also its altitude, as a colder climate will slow the growth of the vine and the maturation of the grape.
Also the exposition to the sun has a big importance. A parcel facing south will always be exposed and the shadow of the ranks will never prevent the other grapes from photosynthesizing, so the quality of the grape might peak earlier than another parcel.
This said, the wine makers has to control its grapes everyday.
The first test will be to crush a few grapes all along the ranks to observe the grainseeds: as long as they are still green, no further action is required; but as soon as they turn brown, the winemaker needs to take samples.
Those samples are sent to a lab for analysis, mainly to control four levels: anthocyanes, the phenols, sugar and acids (the most precise will also observe some aromatic molecules concentration but this is not mandatory). Those four levels will def
ne the three maturations a grape can achieve: the anthocyane level reveals the maturation of the skin that will bring a wine its colour. The phenols will bring indication upon the maturation of the seeds, which define the tannic structure (is it light, medium or full-bodied) and at last, the sugar and acids will define the maturation of the pulp, that gives the wine its aromas. The eye, the palate and the nose, this is how a wine is built and imagined at the beginning.
A few times per decades, sometimes per centuries, those three parts of the grape achieve maturation on the same day: those are the very rare perfect vintages that we all are looking for!
Knowing that, it is time to start the harvest, and you can choose between the mechanic harvest or the manual one.
Usually the manual harvest is used to make high quality wines (as it does not hurt the fruits) or in small crofts, while the mechanic one is normally used for bigger crofts (and it is cheaper;).
Here are a few tips to follow to harvest the right way:
Take care good care of the time of the day you chose to pick up the grapes, you will have to do that when it is not too hot, otherwise they will start to ferment on-site.
Don’t use too large containers, the grapes would be totally crushed and lose their juice… which we want to avoid.
Carry them as quickly as you can to the cellar, they must start to ferment once there not in your container.
You now have the basics to harvest, you just need a couple of vineyards, oooh sorry a cellar can be useful too, it couldn’t be that easy, could it?
Once all of this done, you can organize the traditional fest to celebrate the end of the harvest of the vinyard (called Gerbaude in the Bordeaux region for instance), it is a way for the château to thank all the harvesters for their hard work during two weeks!
Tell us about your harvest stories we would love to hear them!