Apparently the answer to this question would seem to be simple and obvious.
But why is it important to know some of the details linked to the harvest? Why these may seriously affect the quality of the wine and on its value?
In the meantime, let’s speak about the conformation of the vineyards.
In Italy, the “training system” may differ according to the variation in the characteristics of the terrain and the climate.
It is true, it does seem strange to speak about training in regard to vines, but for “training system” we mean the shape that the plant will take on.
In Italy they are:
- Sapling(or goblet): The vine has little foliage (with the absence of guides), the pruning generally is short.
- Pergola: the support structure for the vine is situated transversally between the rows and there is no permanent cordon (or the lateral branch in respect to the stump)
- Marquee: The support structure is situated longways or crossways, there is no permanent cordon and the heads of the fruit develop horizontally. Also in this case the pruning is mixed.
- Bellusera: the brace is provided with ascending arms, along which permanent cordons develop. The heads of the fruit are in a descending position, the pruning is mixed and the vegetation is partly free and partly forced.
- Espalier:also called "counter-espalier", it has the characteristic of having the support structure placed horizontally and along the row. Depending on the pruning system used, it takes different names (Guyot, Spurred Cordon, Sylvoz, etc.).
Then, also the makeup of the soil has an effect. For example, in hill country it is not always easy to carry out the harvest.
To cultivate vines in many regions of Italy where there are steep hills, terracing is created with stone walls that retain the cultivated soil, forming a kind of stairway that follows the curve of the hill or mountain.
This explanation helps to understand why some Ligurian, Valtellina or Campania wines have higher prices, prices that reflect the costs incurred, not only for the annual maintenance, but also for the labour required to effect the harvest.
This introduces us to another aspect of the harvest: manual or mechanized?
The manual harvest guarantees a higher quality of the grapes harvested and of the final product.
The harvester, in fact, thanks to his experience and knowledge, can choose with greatest care the grapes that are found in the best condition and that have reached the level of maturity ideal for the production of a determined type of wine.
Furthermore,the manual harvest preserves the integrity of the individual grape, reducing the risk of dangerous damage to the fruit, with the consequent spillage of the must, and protecting the grape from dangerous oxidation phenomena that would compromise the quality of the wine.
All this depends on the ability, the precision and the sensitivity of the harvester. For example, in the use of small containers that avoid too much crushing of the bunches or ensuring that the wagon into which the grapes are loaded doesn’t heat up too much provoking fermentation of the grape.
Mechanical harvesting is achieved with the use of special machines, called “grape-pickers” that collect the bunches of grapes by stripping the plant.
Compared with the manual method, this kind of harvest considerably reduces both the harvesting time - because the machine is quicker and is able to reap a greater quantity of grapes in a smaller time period - and the labour and production costs.
One can well understand that how the grapes are harvested should be taken into consideration when evaluating the quality and value of the wine.
Tenuted’Italia wines are all produced with grapes harvested by hand in order to better preserve the grapes and the successive processes of fermentation.
When does the harvest normally begin? There is no set date. Fundamentally, the experienced winegrowers, before fixing a start date, make all the necessary analyses to verify the characteristics of the grape (ph, polyphenols etc). According to the type of grape and the level of maturation that one wants to achieve, generally the harvest period runs from August to November.
This year, for example, we at Tenute dItalia, after having effected the analyses, established that the Pignoletto, the grape with which we produce the ISTRIONE and the PIGNOLETTO spumante, had all the optimum values for harvesting. So in the middle of August our team started the manual harvest.
The next phase of the harvest is the winemaking. Remember how one achieves “Red vinification” and “White vinification”?
Click on the link below and have a good read!
[Our] Red Vinification: The Grapes - part 1
[Our] White Vinification: Harvesting - part 1
Why is the grape harvest in Italy such an important event?