The most important time of year for all winemakers – the grape harvest
When the leaves of the trees turn red and orange once again and clouds of mist spread over the vineyards, the winemaker’s heart beats a little faster. Because every year in autumn it’s time again: the grape harvest begins. This is also called grape harvest and describes the harvest of the grapes that have been tended in the vineyard all year round and have grown into ripe fruits.
The harvest time is between mid-September and November, but can sometimes drag on until the beginning of next year. In this post you will learn firsthand information about the grape harvest. The participants of our virtual wine tastings have been guests at Weinhof Steitz in Rheinhessen over the past few weeks and have helped with the harvest. We would now like to share the process of the harvest in Weinhof Steitz with you and also give you further facts about other possibilities of the harvest.
Before the grape harvest: the maturity measurement
Preparation for the grape harvest begins with measuring the ripeness of the grapes. This measures the sugar content and acidity contained in the grapes. In this way you can get an initial assessment of whether and how long the grapes still have to ripen in the vineyard. The higher the fructose and the lower the acidity, the more ripe the grapes are.
Then there is a third component called phenolic maturity. This is sensory controlled by tasting or looking at the grapes from the experienced winemaker. There are indicators here, such as the color of the kernels. If these are still green, the grapes are not yet ripe. The grape is not aromatically ripe until the pips are brown and the flesh has been removed from the pips. Then the taste and a few other details count before the decision is made to harvest the grapes.
The weather is also important
A very important factor in deciding when to pick the grapes is of course the weather. When the weather is nice and sunny, winemakers only have the grapes as a guideline, but if it rains or the weather is inconsistent, something must be planned in the future in order to estimate how long the grapes will survive even bad weather in the vineyard.
Because a warm and humid microclimate promotes rot, and of course no winemaker wants that! Weingut Steitz always harvests 100% healthy grapes.
If there is a rot spot, it must be sorted out before the full harvest. With hand-picking, you do this directly while you are reading, so you only bring the healthy grapes home with you, unhealthy berries are picked on the ground.
The grape harvest itself
Traditionally, the grape harvest is carried out manually by hand, so that the grapes are cut by hand. Here the winemaker can “select”, which means that only healthy and perfect grapes are actually used for further processing. This gives the wine an even higher quality. The harvested grapes are transported in so-called Bütten up to further processing.
Nowadays, mechanical grape harvesting is also carried out if permitted. Perfected ones are used here, which drive over the vines and remove the grapes by shaking and knocking them.
After the harvest: the processing of the grapes
Once you have decided on a vineyard to harvest and the grapes come to the winery, the grapes are processed. There are many options here, e.g. lightly squeezing the grapes, pressing them directly or a so-called mash standing, i.e. leaving the grape skin and juice together for a certain period of time. This leads to the fact that aromas are extracted from the berry skin and the character of the wine changes somewhat.
You always have to be clear about the type of wine you want to make from the grapes and align your strategy accordingly. After pressing, the must is separated from coarse solid particles such as pulp or peel remains through sedimentation and then placed in the barrel for fermentation. And then it is time to wait and observe or measure: how quickly the must ferments, what temperature is the tank.
If you have to curb the fermentation a little by cooling or if the must has difficulties during fermentation, then you can warm up the tank a little. And so it goes its course day after day until all the grapes are harvested, then you can watch the fermentation well into the new year. The young wines are then given some rest on the lees before the first are bottled in spring.
The importance of the grape harvest at the Steitz winery
We have now learned how the grape harvest works at the Steitz winery. For the winery, the grape harvest is the most exciting, stressful but also the best time of the year.
Fritz Steitz says: “You can see the work of the whole year in the grapes and you have to do it accordingly and use all your energy to protect and harvest these grapes as well as possible, since it takes a whole year of effort. In addition, it is a great feeling to feel the smell of fresh grapes or fermenting must in the cellar, to start early in the coolness in the morning and to have made another short stage at the end of the day.
Hand picking the grapes is always a great experience for everyone, it is meditative, it is not too strenuous and you always meet nice people, and of course good food and drink are always part of it. You basically enjoy in action, and you are very relieved and satisfied when you have done the grape harvest and everything has gone well. You can take a lot of vigor and euphoria with you for the next season. “
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Fritz Steitz from the Winery Steitz for the information about the grape harvest and we are looking forward to soon tasting the freshly harvested grapes as wine!
Be there too!
You will soon be able to buy the wines of the fruits you have picked from us and wine tastings especially for the wine year 2021 are already being planned. Do you feel like helping out with a grape harvest? Then you are welcome to be there next year.
Until then, exciting virtual wine tastings and wine tastings directly at the winemaker await you here at Wine-love.de, which we also offer as private events according to your taste. From time to time we also organize pop-up wine tastings with nice company in the wine shop in Schlangenbad. You are always best informed about all events on our channels on Facebook and Instagram.