The stages that distinguish one of the most special moments in agriculture: the grape harvest.
The grape harvest has always been one of the most fascinating rituals of agriculture. After months of caring for the vines, pampering them with our hands to ensure that they bear good, healthy fruit, it is finally time for the grape harvest: a very important moment in the production of wine.
The stages of the grape harvest: the ideal period
There are three harvest times: August-September, September-October and then October-November for late-ripening grapes. The best time of year for harvesting grapes is when the berry is perfectly ripe; at this stage the right balance exists between the content of sugars, acidity, pH and phenols (for dark grapes).
The grape harvest has three distinct phases: harvesting, crushing, fermentation and the final stages of vinification.
The first stage of the grape harvest involves picking the bunches of grapes. This step can either be done manually or using a grape harvesting machine that shakes the vine to make the bunches fall more quickly.
For a quality wine, manual harvesting of the grapes is undoubtedly the better option. The farmer carefully selects the bunches of grapes from among those free from mould or defects, and cuts them with special scissors, stripping them of their leaves.
The best bunches are placed in baskets and then emptied into larger crates for the next stage of the harvest.
The crushing stage is certainly one of the happiest moments because, if this is also done manually, it brings together adults, children and the whole community to take part in country life. The grapes are placed in vats and crushed to obtain the must, after which the next stage is fermentation.
Also at this stage, our work can be facilitated by machinery: with special crusher-destemmers, the grapes can be crushed and their stems removed at one and the same time. If the stems were crushed along with the grapes, they would leave tannic substances with a woody, acrid taste.
The last stage of the harvest is fermentation, which is, in turn, divided into several phases that will determine the quality of the final product. Fermentation is carried out differently depending on the type of wine we wish to obtain:
- for red wine, the grape must is kept in contact with the skins;
- for white wine, the must is separated from the skins and seeds;
- after a short period of maceration (24-36 hours), rosé wines are obtained.
Lastly, we move on to the secondary fermentation and aging stage which will give rise to a host of different products, from sparkling to meditation wines. A period of three months must elapse before they can be put on the market.