Deciding when to harvest the grapes is one of the most important decisions a winemaker has to make. The quality of your wine is depended upon this choice. Every year a few weeks before harvest our winemaker constantly checks the grapes for maturity. Based on véraison (see previous article) the winemaker first estimates when the grapes might be ready to harvest, but this alone isn’t enough since the weather can easily change the ripening process.
Our winemaker measures the sugar levels in the grapes and tastes them to ensure that a nice balance between acidity and sweetness exists. The decision is make based on what we want. If we need more acidity we will harvest a bit earlier, this translates also into less sugar and less alcohol (different aromas and flavors also). On the other hand if we want more sugar we will harvest a bit later. If our grapes are not ripe then our wines will taste bitter and if our grapes are overripe then our wines will feel flat (Not enough acidity).
The winemaker has to ensure the sample of grapes used for tasting represents the whole plot (vineyard). Some vineyards might have several types of soil within them or some parts of them might be exposed to the sun less. In other words not all grapes within a vineyard ripen the same. Selecting grapes from several grapevines within the vineyard and different areas on the grapevine ensures a good sample.
The grapes are then crushed by hand and the sugar level is measured. Some grape are also tasted by the winemaker to ensure the grape flavors are balanced. Another good indicator for ripeness are the seeds. Seeds at the early stages are soft and green and as the grapes ripen they become harder and brown.
The first grapes to harvest will be Chardonnay and based on our samples this will be in just a few days.
Hope everyone has a great summer!