The timing of grape picking can be one of the most challenging decisions for grape growers and wine makers. So, what do we need to do to ensure our grapes are picked at just the right time?
We previously touched on some of these factors in monitoring the vineyard before harvest.
It’s about assessing grape maturity in the vineyard and predicting wine quality. The annual dilemma is whether to delay picking until desirable quality indicators are reached because once they have been picked grapes do not improve in colour, flavour or sugar content. If grapes are left hanging too long on the vine, the berries may split, get attacked by wildlife or insects, break down due to bacteria or fungi or lose their acidity which means they will produce ‘flabby’ wines. Yields and quality will be detrimentally impacted.
In addition to monitoring the chemistry of the grapes while on the vines, there are other factors affect the timing of picking. It’s to do with our unpredictable environment:
- weather (daily temperature range, rainfall)
- likelihood of pest, disease and wildlife damage
- wine grape growing characteristics such as variety (early vs. mid- vs. late season ripening)
- crop load (heavy vs. light load)
- sun exposure (exposed vs. shaded fruit)
- vine health and vine vigour.
It’s also to do with winemaker’s preference and the availability of labour and equipment!