‘Wine is sunlight, held together by water’
In the words of astronomer, engineer, philosopher, mathematician and physicist Galileo Galilei, wine is the result of the interaction of sunlight and water. Having said that, it may take sunlight and water to grow wine grapes, but it takes hard work and passion to produce wine.
When you first arrived at The Wine & Country Club, you were at your wit’s end at the prospect of planting, growing and harvesting grapes, having very little idea of how to tackle the task at hand.
A few months have passed since then, and with the stunning weather over the last couple of months, the grapes are coming on extremely well. Overall the fruit is looking in excellent condition with heavy cropping throughout. You are so excited about starting harvest.
In just a few short weeks—when summer blends into autumn—harvest season will begin, and you are excitedly getting ready for the pivotal time of the year. The long ripening period (from veraison to harvesting) is allowing the grapes adequate time to develop aroma, minerals and extract. The knowledge that Ana, the Club’s talented winemaker, selflessly shares with you is proving to be of great help.
What you need now is sun for ripening and dry, and gentle breezes to keep mildew and botrytis at bay—the main risks to a good harvest at this point. Towards the beginning of September the green leaves of the vine begin to darken and the grape is said to “surrender”; that is, it becomes soft and sweet. However, there is no set date to signal the start of the harvest, it all depends on the ripeness of the grape.
Depending on the grape variety and the weather, harvest can happen from mid-September right through to the end of October—with different varieties ripening at slightly different times—and it is all hands on deck to get the precious fruits in at just the right time. It is funny how you were completely oblivious to all that is at stake.
But thanks to Ana you have discovered that harvesting is not an exact science; quite the opposite, it has an air of mystery and magic about it. Thankfully, you are slowly sniffing out the clues and piecing everything together.
The secret to measuring berry ripeness lies in tasting the grapes progressively to appreciate the subtle differences and gain an understanding of the vineyard’s overall health status. Grapes get softer as they develop, and some cultivars are prone to slip skin (i.e. the grape skin slips easily from the fruit pulp).
It is also important to run some basic tests to determine alcoholic strength, pH levels and total acidity.
Hoping For A Bountiful Harvest
As Ana already mentioned, this is no exact science and, in due course, she will walk you through all the basic steps. But for now, it all boils down to observing the grapes ripening and tasting them, strolling the vineyard, watching the sun go down from the comfort of your own terrace and having a think about how you want your signature wine to taste like.
Once it is time to get down to work, no extensive training will be required and you will surely get the hang of it in no time. The one thing you will need to be is careful with the tools you are to use. Remember, do not let nervousness get the better of you and ruin the experience. Just enjoy the process, and let calm reign.
One thing Ana has faithfully promised though is that after the first few days, you will be dreaming about grapes for hours on end, so get ready for the adventure of your life!