it's harvest time!With the domestic grape harvest underway we thought it would be a good time to give a brief run down on the ins and outs of harvest - the process of getting grapes to the winery.
Peak months for northern hemisphere harvest are August - October, and February - April in the southern hemisphere. Harvest is the busiest, and arguably the most exciting time at a winery, so if you have a chance to visit a winery during harvest you'll be in the thick of the action. We've both worked through several harvests and yes, it's crazy, but it's really a great time to be at the winery - we highly recommend it!
First grapes off the vine are those destined to make our favorite all-occasion sparkling wines - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. These grapes are harvested early, before they reach optimal ripeness, to ensure higher acid and lower sugar levels (brix). Next in line for harvest are generally the whites, followed by the reds. Bear in mind that harvest time can cross over for whites and reds depending on the growing region, the grapes, the specific vineyard microclimate, weather (rain is not a winemaker's friend at harvest time!) and the winemaking style amongst other factors. Complicated? A little bit! However, winemakers have plenty of tools on hand to help them figure out the best time to harvest each varietal.
Last but definitely not least are the grapes that make dessert wines - longer hang time (time on the vine) allows the grapes to reach a high ripeness level, increasing sugar content and decreasing acid, allowing a sweeter wine to be made. Ice wine goes a step further - in very cold regions, grapes are left on the vines to raisin and freeze before being crushed.
For the best wineries, when and how the grapes are harvested is critical. Generally speaking, machine harvested grapes are destined for mass-produced wines, while higher end wineries will harvest grapes by hand. Hand harvesting is a gentler method and protects the grapes from skin damage before getting to the winery, thereby reducing risk of oxidizing the juice and protecting against bacteria. An increasing number of wineries harvest grapes at night and into the early pre-dawn hours, to keep the grapes (and the vineyard crew) cool, which helps retain the grapes acid/sugar structure so the grapes arrive at the winery in tip-top shape.
Email us with any harvest questions - FYI the Napa Valley harvest is about 3 weeks later than average this year due to a cooler, wetter growing season. Doesn't sound like much but in the winery world, that's a big deal!
new wine & food page- We all love good wine and good food, right? To give you some ideas and to share some delicious wine & food pairings that we've experienced first-hand, we added a wine & food page to our website. Feel free to share your own great pairings with us and tell us if you've tried out our recipes!
news & events page - FYI we try and keep our news & events page updated with class updates, wine events and in-store tasting info. If you have an event you think we can add, just let us know.
fun facts & wine terminology - From our homepage you can also check out a new fun wine fact and a new wine term. Tell us if you have any fun wine facts or wine related terminology you'd like us to explain. We love suggestions and requests!
We have another winemaking quiz this month! Click here for the answers.
1. What term describes the "sense of place" of a wine?
2. What do "bouquet" and "aroma" refer to when talking about a wine?
3. What term describes a wine in which all the sugar in it has been used up by the fermentation?
4. What is the deposit of yeast and solids formed during fermentation called?
5. What is the term given to the grape skins, stems and bits and pieces, that rise to the top of the liquid during primary fermentation, or first phase fermentation?