September… the month of vine harvest

(by Petros Marinakis – Botanical Park and Gardens)

The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels with winemakers basing their decision to pick based on the style of wine they wish to produce.

The weather can also shape the timetable of harvesting with the threat of heat, rain, hail, and frost which can damage the grapes and bring about various vine diseases. In addition to determining the time of the harvest, winemakers and vineyard owners must also determine whether to utilize hand pickers or mechanical harvesters.

The harvest season typically falls between August & October in the Northern Hemisphere and February & April in the Southern Hemisphere. With various climate conditions, grape varieties, and wine styles the harvesting of grapes could happen in every month of the calendar year somewhere in the world.

Ripeness

Throughout the history of wine, winemakers would use the sugar and acid levels of the grape as a guide in determining ripeness. Early winemakers tasted the grapes to gauge ripeness. Modern winemakers use a refractometer to measure hi sugar levels and °Brix or titration tests (using an indicator such as phenolphthalein) to determine the titratable acidity within the grape.

In recent times there has been more of an emphasis on the “physiological” ripeness of the grape, usually in the form of tannins and other phenolics.

Currently, tasting is the only way to measure tannin ripeness, which can take experience and skill to do accurately. Viticulturalists have not yet fully explained the complex processes that go into the ripening of tannins but most believe it begins with the polymerization of small astringent tannins into larger molecules which are perceived by the taste buds as being softer.

Hand picking

Despite the costs, some wineries prefer the use of human workers to hand-pick grapes. The main advantage is the knowledge and discernment of the worker to pick only healthy bunches and the gentler handling of the grapes. The production of some dessert wine like Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese require that individual berries are picked from the botrytized bunches which can only be done by hand. In areas of steep terrain, like in the Mosel, it would be virtually impossible to run a mechanical harvester through the vineyard.

In many wine regions, migrant workers are a sizable composition of the harvest time work force as well as local student and itinerant workers.

Vine harvest in Crete

Wine is a basic component of the Greek culture. There are thousands references from the Minoan times to the cultivation of vineyards for wine making. Minoan varieties are still grown today, in the same fields and sometimes with the same methods.

There is no Cretan meal without wine, which the landlord particularly praises. Almost every house has its own wine. The vineyard needs care after the harvest, starting with a basic trimming. The main trimming takes place, depending on the area and the altitude, in January or February. The vineyard needs of course a lot more works, like disinfection with sulphur.

The ripening and the harvest take place depending on the variety and the altitude of the area in the first ten days of August until the beginning of October. Until then the vine requires constant supervision and work, for the prevention of various diseases.

The social dimension of the grape-harvest gives us a characteristic aspect of agricultural life in Crete. From dawn friends and relatives collect and carry the grapes. When the grape-harvest ends, the grapes are pressed either with the feet or with machines and the grape juice is produced. The sunshine of Crete gives the juice a lot of sugars so we have several high-degree wines.

At this moment the landlady will take grape juice, “boil” it with ashes and serve it with almonds, walnuts, sesame and cinnamon. When the pressing ends, the grape juice is placed in barrels or remains in the press for some hours to obtain colour and tannins. Then it’s time party time. Everybody sits around the rich table with the best wines of the house and gives wishes to the landlord. The fatigue of the day is transformed into song and dance.

with info from incrediblecrete.gr and wikipedia.org

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