The most exciting time of the year, for winegrowers began. That’s the time of the year when winegrowers are harvesting their past hard work. In the grape growing areas of the northern hemisphere, the grape harvest are already in a full swing. In the warmer areas, grapes are already picked, while in other areas (and late varieties) harvest will begin in the traditionally grape harvest month – September. Even though harvesting its super exciting, it’s also the busiest time of the year. Since there are several things that need to be considered when organizing the harvest, we selected the top 5 tips for better organizing the harvest. But before we get into the business, let’s have a look (how to know) when the grapes are ready for the harvest.

When grapes are ripe?

Grapes need to be picked when they are fully ripe. The first harbingers of grape maturity can be determinated by our senses. The first indicator of ripeness is the color of the grapes. Red grape varieties in their full ripeness develop deep purple-blue color while white grape varieties lighten, and their skin color turns almost yellow. When grapes get the proper color they usually need, depends on the variety and the weather, another 1 to 3 week to develop their full sweetness. The easiest way to determined the sweetness of the grape is by tasting them. Ripe grapes taste sweet, not tart; you also need to consider that each variety has its own unique flavor. On touch, the ripe grapes feel soft, plump and full of juice. Vineyard full of fully ripe grapes emits a pleasant sweet smell, so you will know when to harvest. A very good sign of full ripeness are also animals who are feeding themselves with grapes. Another indicator is the color of the seed, ripe grapes have brown seeds while green seeds tell you that grapes are not yet ready for the harvest.

Most of the winegrowers in addition to the obvious signs and their “instinct” also take into account measurements of sugar, and the acid of the grapes, as well as the pH of the grapes. Since this measurement differs from the variety and the micro-climate of the vineyard, each winegrower should know his ripe grapes optimal values. According to some literature, the optimal levels for red wines are Brix: 22, TA: 0,75, pH: 3,4; and for the white wines Brix: 20, TA: 0,7 and pH: 3,2.

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hoto: Ripe Grapes

Mechanical or hand pick harvest

Even though several winegrowers tend to use the mechanics, there is still a number of doubts and questions about the best way for the grape harvest. Some prefer mechanical harvesting while others don’t want to hear about anything else but hand-picking. The advantage of the mechanical harvesting is in its low price. Harvester can pick up to 200 tons of grapes per day while one experienced human picker only somewhere between 1 and 2 tons. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine hand picking in huge vineyards. Before hand-pickers would end their job, half of the grapes would already shrivel, not to mention high labor costs. However, some wineries prefer hand picking since mechanical harvester can not distinguish between ripe, unripe and rotten bunches. In addition, the harvester can damage the grape skin and therefore the risk of oxidation and a loss of the aromatic qualities in the wine.

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Mainly small, family owned wineries are deciding for hand picking, and also wineries who have vineyards in such terrain where is completely impossible to harvest mechanically. Also berries from botrytized bunches, for sweet wines, can not be picked in any other way than by hand. We collected some tips that are going to come in handy for small, hand-picking wineries when preparing for the harvest.

mechanical harvestPhoto: Mechanical harvest

Top 5 tips to better-organized harvest

1. Check the weather forecast
When grapes are already well ripe, make sure to regularly check the forecast for you the exact location, so there will be no surprises on the last critical days before the harvest. Let eVineyard help you with that! Make sure to pick a beautiful sunny day for your harvesting, in case you choose to harvest on a daytime. What’s nicer than harvesting on a sunny day?

2. Call your help
Make sure to notify your friends about your harvest plan a week in advance so that you are not going to be left alone with all of the work. In return, prepare them a lunch and promise a fun day in the vineyard, that’s how you are going to join pleasant with usefulness. Day or two before the harvest confirm with your pickers so you will know how to organize the work in the vineyard on the D-day.

3. Check the Brix and pH
A day before the harvest makes sure that all (well, most) of the grapes are well ripe. Check for Brix and pH on several different locations in the vineyard for the last time before the harvest. We already mention that each winegrower should know optimal levels of Brix, TA, and pH of grapes; and determinate the general levels of sugar, pH, and acid for red and white wines.

4. Tidy vineyard
Tidy up your vineyard a day or two before the harvest. After that, picking will be more efficient since you and your friends are not going to walk on the dewy weeds, and they won’t be searching for the berries among them. The night before the harvest also removes the bird-net, in case you have it so that you can start with harvesting right in the morning.

5. Wash up and clean all of the equipment
Before the harvest, clean up your harvesting equipment such as buckets and clippers. Also don’t forget to clean and sanitize all of the winemaking equipment, so that grapes can go directly into the process of wine making. And after the harvest, clean all of the equipment properly, as well!

Above all, don’t take too hard on yourself – that supposed to be an exciting day (despite the fact that it’s going to be a long, long day). So have fun and drink something for easy work. After all, you have to empty your old stock for the new vintage to come 🙂

Happy harvest!

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Photo: Grape pressing with feet

Sources:
10 Tips for a Successful Harvest Day; WineMaker Magazine
How and when to harvest grapes; Getty Stewart

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