You may be aware that Harvest season is in full swing in the northern hemisphere, meaning winemakers in regions such as Bordeaux, Tuscany and Rioja, are currently in the middle of the most crucial step of wine production. During this time, the fruit is carefully picked, and the process of making that year’s vintage begins. Knowing when to begin picking the grapes is crucial to producing a desirable outcome, so winemakers either use technology or simply taste the fruit as they walk down the vineyard. But what exactly are they looking for?
Besides observing the colour of the skin, pips and stems, wine growers look for ideal levels of acidity and sugar ripeness. Sugar plays a big factor in the final alcohol level and determines how dry or sweet the wine will be. For example, grapes for sparkling wines are generally picked a little earlier than still wines, as they require higher level of acidity and less sugar. If the weather is warm, the fruit will continue to ripen on the vine, which is why timing and efficiency are an absolute must during harvest.
The work begins early morning, often before 6am, but some growers prefer to pick in the middle of the night due to cooler temperatures. Grapes are picked either by hand or machinery; that process is entirely up to the winery. Hand-harvesting can be more gentle and precise, but as you can imagine, very time-consuming and more expensive. Cleanliness is critical during harvest, and equipment such as the grape press and tanks must be maintained through another important of harvest and equipment such as the grape press and tanks must be maintained throughout the process. For the final stage, workers are tasked with sorting the grape bunches, removing unwanted bits and debris before the wine is sent to be pressed and made into the delicious liquid we all love!