The grape harvest represents the most well-known work in winery by wine lovers, both amateurs and those who know everything related to this world in detail. Today in this post we want to explain to you the meaning of the grape harvest and why it is the culmination of a long process in the vineyard before moving on to vinification in the winery.
We believe that the grape harvest is the moment when the land and the winery merge to pass from the land to our hands. This is the moment when the work and experience of our winemaker Lauren Rosillo comes into play, to decide the perfect time to pick the grapes. The Tempranillo variety, hence its name, is the one that is harvested earlier, since its maturation cycle is earlier than others, such as Graciano, Garnacha, Cabernet, Syrah or Petit Verdot.
The grape, the centerpiece of the grape harvest
The moment of the grape harvest is the most important decision that the technical team faces every year, although if there is no previous quality work in the field, starting with pruning, it is difficult to guarantee the necessary balance of ripening. However, in addition to the economic cost of field work, quality viticulture has a ‘cost’ in terms of production. Proof of this is that our maximum yield are always lower than those set each year by the Regulatory Councils.
The truth is that there is no pattern that determines the optimal time for harvesting; each vineyard has specific conditions that, in addition to the variety, also depend on climatological factors such as temperature, humidity, the type of soil and the style of wine we want to make.
Even though it is a process that takes place between August and October, these conditions mean that some harvests are harvested earlier or later.
However, we carry out sampling days before the harvest, an exam that will determine the optimal moment for the grape harvest. Our selection of Finca Antigua wines, for example, forces us to work to the maximum on the concept of selection in the winery and specially in the field, to ensure that our wines are always of the highest quality.
How is an optimal harvest carried out?
In our winery of the D.O. Rueda, Finca Montepedroso, the grapes are harvested at night because this brings many benefits. “The night temperature helps when picking and handling the bunches because the grape is harder, which prevents fermentation from getting out of control and allows us to work with fresher grapes,” explains Lauren Rosillo. “The grapes rehydrate at night, so harvesting them in these circumstances reduces the future volume of alcohol in the wine,” explains our renowned winemaker.
The Rueda region has a continental climate, which means short, hot summers and long, cold winters. September is characterized by high temperatures during the day and cool nights, so the grapes are harvested at night, where the effect of oxygen is lower, and it does not cause early fermentation.
The grapes are transferred to the tanks, which ferment by gravity and rest on their lees for about five months, with weekly stirring, a light ageing that produces that intense and forceful mouthfeel that differentiates Finca Montepedroso from the rest of conventional Ruedas from the first moment.
At Finca Valpiedra, in addition to the characteristic Riojan climate and the microclimate of the Ebro meander where our vines are planted, the stony soil, which partially retains heat, means that the harvest is normally earlier than in other areas of La Rioja Alta.
The grapes are harvested manually and according to variety: we begin the harvest with the Tempranillo, and at the same time the Maturana, which has a late budding but short cycle, and we finish with the Graciano and the Garnacha. The grapes are selected both in the vineyard and on the selection table at the entrance to the winery.
As these are single vineyard wines, the process of both collection and production must be very careful and closely monitored by the Control Board of the D.O. Ca. Rioja.
Finca Antigua has an extension of 1,000 hectares, which 421 are vineyards, statistics that illustrate the activity that takes place these days in the winery. The thermal amplitude (the difference in temperature between night and day) is crucial for the ripening of the vineyard, since cool temperatures are necessary for the anthocyanins -responsible for the color of the wine, among other functions- to develop in the berries. This is the great differential advantage of Finca Antigua, and it is possible thanks to the altitude of our vineyards.
The cold at night is the great ally of our vineyards and of our technicians and harvesters who pick the grapes at night to ensure that they enter the winery in perfect condition.
We usually start with Muscatel, whose sugar content is totally natural thanks to the sun exposure of the vineyards, to continue with the earliest red varieties, then with white grapes and finally with the later ones, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A long way
The grape harvest, as we have already mentioned, is one more step in winemaking, perhaps the best known. It is part of a process that we carry out with dedication and care and that Familia Martínez Bujanda has been doing for more than 135 years, consolidating each vintage with its commitment to sustainable viticulture, with the study and divisions of the Estates and with that inalienable idea of produce wines that convey the character of our terroirs. We are already thinking about next year’s harvest