The process of picking grapes for harvest is a critical part of winemaking. This process requires careful consideration of various factors such as grape ripeness, sugar content, acidity, and flavour profile. A winemaker’s approach to picking grapes for harvest can significantly impact the quality of the final wine product. This keeps Martin Smith, Paserene’s winemaker, busy at this time of year.
The first step to picking grapes for harvest is to assess the ripeness of the grapes. Grape ripeness is determined by measuring many complex and interwoven aspects, most notably the sugar content, acidity, and pH of the grapes. The sugar content of grapes is measured in Brix, a unit of measurement for the sugar concentration in a liquid. Winemakers typically aim for a Brix level between 22 to 26, depending on the style of wine they are producing.
Once the ripeness of the grapes has been assessed, the decision is when to pick. This decision is influenced by several factors, including weather conditions, grape variety, and desired wine style.
Weather conditions can play a significant role in picking grapes for harvest. If the weather is too hot, the grapes may become overripe, resulting in higher sugar levels and lower acidity levels with a risk of a flabby wine. Conversely, if the weather is too cold, the grapes may not ripen fully, resulting in lower sugar levels and higher acidity levels. A significant concern for many regions is heavy rainfall late in the season which can water down the balance and flavour of the grapes as the vine drinks up excess water. Winemakers must monitor the weather closely and decide to pick based on current and forecasted weather conditions.
The grape variety is also an important consideration when picking grapes for harvest. Different grape varieties ripen at different times, so winemakers must be familiar with the specific grape variety they are working with. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes typically ripen later than Chardonnay grapes. Through experience and good management practices, this can offer some relief to staggering harvesting schedules.
The desired wine style can also influence the decision to pick grapes for harvest. This also comes down to Martin’s skill in knowing how far he can leave the berries on the vine to develop character while ensuring the necessary acidity to carry the rich and balanced wines for which Paserene is known.
Once the harvest day is identified, there is pressure to ensure the skilled team is ready since Paserene’s grapes are harvested by hand. The team are well versed in what fruit meets the grade ensuring only the best fruit makes it to the cellar.
Once the grapes have been harvested, they are transported to the winery for processing. The timing of transport is crucial to ensure the grapes arrive at the winery in optimal condition. Ideally, grapes are transported early in the morning when the temperatures are cooler to minimize the risk of oxidation and spoilage, allowing the best start to the winemaking process.
Harvest requires experience, knowledge, and keen attention to detail. Under the leadership of Martin, supported by his skilled team, the final product is Paserene’s range of luxurious wines, which capture the entire journey from vineyard to glass.