Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to Analyze a Harvest Report

Harvest reports are flooding the wine industry media now. If you are a buyer of grapes or a winemaker already, you know how to view these reports. But for the “others” among us, the comments below from Elizabeth Standeven, who is the current President of the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association, give some perspectives that are useful and will enhance your appreciation of grower concerns at harvest time.

Elizabeth says, “One thing many growers (and wineries) tend to track pretty closely is Brix (a measure of how much sugar and therefore potential alcohol of the finished wine). Other things they should e tracking, but not all do, is TA (total acidity) and pH.

“These 3 measures (Brix, TA, pH) plus favors in the grapes are generally what growers and wineries try to optimize at harvest........that said, the optimal range of each measure isn't always met, so that is where winemakers earn their pay.

“In an ideal situation the grower and winemaker work together to decide exactly when to pick based on what these ripening criteria suggest would be ideal for the type or style of wine they want to make. Each winemaker has his/her own style and "tricks" they use to adjust the grape-must before's a matter of stylistic preference.

“Other things growers are looking at this time of year:

· Crop load....not exactly cluster appearance...more of a broad brush how much crop is out there and whether it is ripening uniformly or not.

· Bunch rot- lots of different kinds can also show up this time of year as the grapes soften just before final ripeness... these include several different kinds of molds and mildews that can attack, especially tight clusters or clusters that get rained on.

· Labor - another issue this time of year...a limited pool and if many varietals ripen at once...not enough hands to go around

· Tank space - while not exactly a grower issue, if a given winery takes in too much of varietal A and runs out of tank space for varietal B the grower could get a call saying the winery will take less than previously discussed

· Weather - too much excessive heat or rain this time of year can ruin certain grapes.

· Logistics - always an issue...getting the winery, picking crew, and equipment ready to go at the same time

· Birds and other critters eating your grapes - this year we are experiencing extra bird and turkey pressure on the Shaker Ridge, we had to put out more bird nets, borrow the neighbor's dog to chase turkeys and we have our annual visitations from the neighborhood bear(s).

· Hang time - for us, hang time isn't a concern usually....the grapes are ripe when they are ripe....if it takes too long to ripen (like in a cool year) then you run a greater risk of running out of good weather to fully ripen the grapes. At higher elevations and some later ripening varietals have more issues here.

I am sure there are other concerns out there, but this is what was on my mind today!

Shaker Ridge Barbera,
to be harvested soon

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