Guest Blog from VP Vineyard Ops, Lino Bozzano: When to Harvest

In the wine world we are constantly talking about Laetitia-58the importance of viticulture. How the subtleties of soil, climate, canopy management, etc. effect the flavors and nuances of a wine. Somehow, by having the perfect climate and best viticulture practices we will make great wine. However, there is one key decision that needs to be made despite these subtleties. If it is made incorrectly, no amount of viticulture, soil or climate will save you. That decision is when to harvest.

The decision to harvest first starts with the monitoring of the grapes. As the grapes start to ripen we begin by analyzing the flavors, tannin levels, sugars and the acidity. When the grapes have reached a balance of all of those factors, the harvest is scheduled. Sugar is measured in Brix and acid is measured as total acidity(TA) and pH. A refractometer measures sugar and a pH meter measures pH, acid is analyzed by preforming a titration and tannins can be determined by peforming a Chromatography test. These very accurate and precise machines are used to assign values to the grapes. Once these values are established, it is easy to look at a lab report and say the “numbers” look great, it’s time to pick. However, none of these machines are very good at talking to each other. None of these machines can put a value to flavor.

Laetitia-79At Laetitia, we use a very old and ancient machine that can take all of the components and produce a result that tells us when to harvest the grapes. This machine works so well that our wines show amazing consistency from vintage to vintage. The name of that machine is called the human mouth. We walk the rows chewing on the grapes, using our mouth to determine the exact time when the flavors, tannins, sugar and acid are complimenting each other. We chew on the seeds and skin to make sure there aren’t any green flavors or bitterness. We savor the juice to determine the feeling of the sweetness and acidity. We identify the intensity of the flavors and make associations to foods like raspberries, cherries, blueberries, cocoa, etc. We do this for each block of grapes and once all of these factors are in balance, we schedule the harvest.

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