The harvest (vendemmia in italian) is the moment in which the grapes, grown in the vineyard throughout the year, are harvested and taken to the cellar to begin the winemaking process, which with the alcoholic fermentation of the sugars contained in the ripe berries will transform the must into wine.
The harvest period varies between July and October (in the northern hemisphere) and between February and April (in the southern hemisphere), and depends on many factors, even if in a generic way it is identified with the period in which the grapes reached the grade desired ripening, that is when the ratio between the percentage of sugars and that of acids in the grape has reached the optimal value for the type of wine to be produced.
If this parameter is generally valid for table grapes, in the case of grapes destined for the production of wine it is necessary to consider additional parameters to decide when and how to harvest.
The vine is an ancient plant that has been cultivated for millions of years.
The vine is said to be one of the oldest plants on Earth. Traces of fossils have been found all over the world that date back to times prior to the appearance of man.
The ancient Sumerians, the Egyptians and then again the Greeks and the Etruscans cultivated the vine and produced wine even if this was very different from what we are used to drinking today.
What is certain is that the origins of vine cultivation date back to prehistoric times and the geographical area is precisely that of the Mediterranean.
It is with the Mediterranean climate that the vine grows and thrives and allows man to make wine.
During the Roman era a festival was dedicated to the grape harvest, the vinalia rustica, which was celebrated on 19 August; it was a feast common to other Latin cities as well, so much so that Varro tells how on the gates of Tusculum it was written not to bring the wine collected during the harvest within the walls, before having proclaimed the Vinalia.
A job for early risers
The harvest begins early in the morning before the heat begins to be felt.
The bunches, very dry (the water could affect the quality of the must), are placed in large baskets, making sure that the grains do not get damaged.
The baskets are taken to the premises where the vinification will start: the transport is quite fast because we try to avoid unwanted maceration or fermentation.
The time of harvest may depend on
- Climatic conditions: as the latitude increases, the grapes ripen later;
- Production area: in the northern hemisphere, the grapes from the vineyards facing south ripen earlier than those facing north; inversely in the southern hemisphere the grapes of the vineyards facing north ripen earlier than those facing south; in both cases, as the altitude increases, the grapes ripen earlier;
- Type of grape: white grape varieties usually ripen earlier than red grape varieties;
There are two grape harvesting methods:
Manual: it is used for the production of high-quality wines and classic method sparkling wines, as it is necessary to selectively choose the bunches; this leads to an inevitable increase in production costs; in ancient times it was crushed with the feet.
Mechanical: there are facilitating machines, which speed up manual work, and grape harvesting machines. For plots of less than 50 ha they are generally towed machines coupled to a tractor; for larger vineyards they are self-propelled machines.
The product that detaches from the plant is collected before it touches the ground, cleaned of any impurities and placed in a hopper which is then emptied into special trailers. Mechanical harvesting offers some advantages, including cost-effectiveness compared to manual harvesting. For productions that satisfy the quality of the cellar, it is necessary to manually eliminate those clusters that have diseases or are not yet ripe.
2022 has been a satisfactory year in quantity and surprising in quality.According to the harvest forecasts of the Assoenologi Observatory, Ismea and the Italian Wine Union, the drought and the record heat of this year have not compromised the Italian vineyard which, at the start of the harvest campaign, promises quality grapes from very good, with a quantity in line with the average of the last few years. In addition to the providential rains of August, the extraordinary work of research and application of producers on a vine that is increasingly resilient to climatic and meteorological adversities guarantees the seal of the final product.