The right moment to pick the grapes!
The grape harvest is the process of picking the grapes addressed to the vinification. In the north hemisphere, the grape harvest usually take place between the end of July and the end of October, whereas in the southern hemisphere it take place from February to April.
The right moment to harvest is when the grapes are completely ripen and thus, its sugary content and its acidity are well balanced. It is possible to identify the right level of ripening thanks to the use of hydrometers and precision thermometers , able to analyze the percentage of sugar in the must.
The variables that can affect the ripening
The wine maker, however, could take into consideration other elements that can influence the ripening of the grapes. First of all the geographic position of the vine: the higher the latitude is, the longer the ripening is, whereas the higher is the altitude, the more the grapes will mature thanks to the great intensity of the sun. For the same reason, it is fundamental to take into consideration the exposure: vineyards facing the south will be harvested before the ones facing the north. Besides these variables, it is important to consider that each vine variety has a different moment of ripening and in general white grapes ripen before the red ones.
How to decide the period of the grape harvest
The decision of the right moment to harvest is usually the half of July, when you can have the possibility to evaluate the climatic condition of the year. The decision, moreover, is taken considering the type of vinification that will take place. The winemaker that want to produce Spumante, for instance, will harvest just before the perfect ripening of the grapes, so that it is possible to guarantee a great acidity and a fresh bouquet. Who produces wines of a great alcoholic volume has to wait and harvest in late in order to allow to produce a high sugar content.
Hand or automated grape harvest
In the past the grape harvest was carried out completely by hand and this allowed to select carefully each grape to verify its ripening. Today, despite the spreading of the automated harvest, there are places where it is impossible to use machines (in the mountain or terracing, for instance) and where the passion and the joy of this moment are always the same. In this places it is still possible to practice
There is, in fact, the possibility for the winemaker to delay the harvest to over-ripen the grapes or wither them: the grapes after having reached a complete ripening, start to loose water and while the sugar are more concentrated, the acidity decreases. This type of late grape harvest allow the production of passito wines , sweeter, more intense and alcoholic. It takes place in a period that can vary between November and February.