Ask Missa: Inside a Grape Harvest
Written by Missa Capozzo, Director of Sommology on October 12, 2018
A grape harvest is a complex, yet exciting process. I have had the pleasure of participating in a grape harvest during several different seasons, and it’s truly fascinating to be part of such an integral and laborious process. Many local vineyards will seek volunteers to partake in each harvest. If you have the opportunity to do so, I strongly suggest you experience this exciting process! In the meantime, here are some commonly asked questions about our favorite time of year.
Wine Guides Shannon Savva (left) and Debbie Allen harvest Syrah grapes in Chile during Traveling Vineyard’s elite leadership retreat.
When are wine grapes harvested?
Harvest is the most exciting time of year in a vineyard. Grape harvest marks the end of the growing season and the beginning of the wine making process. The harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere typically falls between August and October, and in the Southern Hemisphere typically between February and April.
Timing is incredibly important when it comes to grape harvest. The grower will make sure the grapes have reached their ideal acidity, ripeness, and sugar levels for the intended resulting wine. The grapes are harvested at this precise moment. Incredible care goes into the harvesting of the grapes, and many decisions must be made concerning the process. There must also be planning the harvest around predicted storms and rainfall, as too much precipitation just prior to a harvest can ruin a crop.
How are wine grapes harvested?
Some growers might choose to harvest by hand, others might choose to machine harvest. Depending on the placement of the vines, it might be impossible to machine harvest due to steep incline or narrow terrace. Some growers feel the need to harvest certain grapes at night when the temperature is coolest. This will help maximize the acidity levels in the grapes.
Are all grape varietals harvested at the same time?
No. Actually, different types are harvested at different times. Typically, early ripening grapes are those such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris/Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. Later ripening grapes are those such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Each vintage will be different, as the weather directly affects the ripening process.
Our Ask Missa column is designed to answer all your wine questions! Director of Sommology Missa Capozzo is a wine scholar, seasoned Wine Guide and wine lover. She has a vast knowledge of wine and a passion for sharing what she’s learned! Submit your wine questions to Missa at firstname.lastname@example.org.