The month of August comes to an end and after an intense year of care, pruning and maintenance of the field, for many it is time to prepare for the harvest. While in the southern hemisphere the harvest takes place between the months of February and April, in some regions of the northern hemisphere it begins in August and can take until October, especially to enhance the sugars in the grape that are ideal for making the popularly known fortified wines.
In the past, the harvest took place a hundred days after the vines sprouted. But in the 21st century, especially in the last decade, the increasingly hot summer season has shortened this ripening period, causing new challenges for winegrowers. Thus, it is not surprising that many winegrowers and wineries are carrying out the harvest before the end of the hottest month of the year. That’s our case: we are ready!
First, we must carry out an exhaustive analysis of the grape, for which we collect some sample grains. Not all varieties mature at the same time, as some are early varieties and others are late varieties. We will find out the degree of maturation, with the percentage relationship between acidity and sugar, which will help us to assess the optimal moment to pick the fruit. We will also study other aspects, such as the state of the seed, or the maturity of the skin, where the tannins and aromas are found. Elements such as altitude, production area, orientation or climate, will determine the result of these analyzes, which is the prior necessary commitment to guarantee the production of quality wines.
Let’s take that the result of the analytics is satisfactory. The destemmer is ready, the press, the vat and the last recently purchased barrels. Shallow baskets so that the grapes are not crushed, and plastic or wooden containers and boxes, but always of 10-15 kg capacity, will be available by hand, since the selection will be done manually in the vine itself, without harvesters. The bunches will be chosen before they are quickly taken to the winery, guaranteeing that the shortest possible time passes from their collection.
The harvest will be done at night or first thing in the morning, thus avoiding the high daytime temperatures at this time of year for the harvesters, but also the fermentation of the grapes. The sky and the forecast of rain will always be monitored, since the summer rain at mid-harvest would favor the absorption of water by the grape, reducing its flavors and aromas.
Other wineries decide to carry out a mechanical harvest. This is an increasingly common practice as it significantly reduces the economic costs of this delicate process, conditioning the type of cultivation that must be carried out on trellises. However, it is the least recommended way if what is intended is to produce high quality wines and high quality sparkling wines.
Let’s get started!
Where? In our case, for the white grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel lo, Garnacha Blanca… These are early varieties that if we do not pick at night, we will do it first thing in the morning, before the first rays of sun that favor less volatile phenolic characteristics. Then, we will repeat the process with the red grapes: Tempranillo, Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon…
Every bunch of grapes that will arrive as a whole at the selection table will awaken a smile on our face, like the one we hope is reflected in each of the bottles of our collections that will reach the hands of wine lovers and consumers of good wine.