Its Harvest time—Corn, Cotton, Soybeans, and…Grapes?

Around this time of year, the weather starts to change slightly—the mornings are crisper and the evenings require a light jacket. This weather change coincides with farmers harvesting many of the major crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans. Many people do not realize, however, that this is also harvest time for grapes.

Why is Harvesting Time Important?                                              

Harvesting is a critical step in the winemaking process because harvesting the grape too soon or too late can drastically change the taste of the wine produced. Some growers base harvest time on the taste of the grape, many others use equipment that tests the sugar content and other characteristics, and some growers use a combination of both methods. If the harvest occurs too early, the flavors have not had a chance to fully mature, and if the harvest does not happen soon enough the grapes may be overripe and create unbalanced wine.

The growers also must know what type of wine will be made from their grapes because harvest time affects the sugar content and acidity level of the grape and each wine has a desired level of these characteristics as well as the tannins. For example, grapes used for dessert wines need to have a higher sugar content, so they are left on the vine longer than other varietals, and grapes used for ice wines are usually left on the vines even longer making them the last ones to be harvested.

Weather conditions are extremely important to harvest time because an extreme change in weather, such as an early frost or late heat wave, can drastically alter the taste of the grapes. Storms are also critical to harvesting because a heavy rain, wind, or hail storms could destroy a year’s crop.