The grape harvest is, as we said last week, the most important process in winemaking. It is the time to collect the fruit from the plant, from the vineyard. From there it is taken to the winery, in the case of own productions as in the case of Barcolobo, or to cooperatives, in particular situations. Obviously, the whole process of selection, destemming, crushing, fermentation and pressing is crucial. But what will determine the quality of the wine is the harvesting of the grapes. And that is why there are different techniques.
Although it is still a rather ‘ancestral’ technique, and many wineries opt for manual harvesting, technological advances make it possible to carry out a mechanical harvest. This decision will depend mainly on the type of vineyard and the labor available.
In manual harvesting, the grapes are picked by hand, cluster by cluster. Although it is a slower and more tiring process, this allows the harvesters to see which clusters are optimal; those that are in the ideal ripening conditions. Once they are selected, they are put into boxes and taken to the winery. The size of the box also plays an important role to avoid crushing the grapes. When they have too much weight, they break and allow the entry of organisms. To ensure quality, it is recommended that the grapes be harvested in boxes of no more than 15 kg.
This is a more laborious process, and also more expensive, but it guarantees a wine of the highest quality. For some styles of wine, such as many sweet wines made from grapes affected by noble botrytis, harvesting is done grape by grape, and the vineyard is walked several times, selecting berry by berry. This would be impossible with mechanical harvesting.
Mechanical harvesting, on the other hand, uses machinery to pick the grapes. In this case, the harvesters are the main protagonists. However, they cannot be used in all vineyards, only in those whose plants are cultivated on trellises, on flat or gently sloping land, in dry soil, in varieties that do not break easily and that when shaken separate with little effort from the stalk. The great advantage of these techniques is the speed of harvesting. There are varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc that ripen very quickly and need to be harvested in the shortest possible time.
In contrast to the manual option, it is a more economical technique that involves less care of the grapes, as they can break. In addition, leaves, pieces of vine that break, insects and bunches in poor condition are also harvested. For this reason, it is considered to be of lower quality. Although if once the grapes are taken to the winery a selection is made, it is possible to make high quality wine.
These are the harvesting techniques. You can also hear about night harvesting, which is done at night to avoid the high temperatures (detrimental to quality, saving in the winery to lower the temperature) of these months is easier to do it with a harvester. Or the late harvest, which is done as late as possible so that the fruit has the maximum concentration of sugars and can be made, for example, sweet wines.