Grape harvesting: when is the best time?

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The grape harvest of 2016 was less vigorous than that of 2015, with a small decline, as estimated by Coldiretti Tuscany, but in these cases one tends to say that a lesser amount corresponds to a higher quality.
For farms, the grape harvest is the most important moment after a year of sacrifices and choices in the vineyard. Work becomes constant, in some cases the choice of the best grapes is made, but a lot depends on if you want to give priority to quality or quantity.

Ripening is one of the fundamental elements to decide the time of harvesting, since the degree of maturation defines the ratio of sugars, acids, ph, and phenolics that will make a more structured wine.
vigneti-1As regards the degree of maturation, the following factors are considered: the type of soil, exposure, climate, altitude, latitude, if the area is more or less windy, the humidity, if the type of vine is more or less unripe and of course the type of grape harvest, manual or mechanical, which will be carried out. Everything that is done in the vineyard has an 80% impact on the success or not of the bottle.
For example, in the Val d’Orcia area, having both white and red grapes, the grape harvest lasts from August to early October, with the differences due to the season, before one harvests the Chardonnay and after about 6/10 days the vermentinu. For white grapes, the method one uses to determine the harvest day is by the visual and taste inspection on the field and measurements with a refractometer. Upon the approach of the maturation of the grapes we sample a few clusters which means we can measure the sugar density and therefore the alcohol content potential.
For red grapes, the first harvest regards those Merlot and Syrah, and takes place around the 8-10 September, while at the end of September/early October cabernet sauvignon grapes are harvested. One has to wait until the end of September and in some cases even beyond, for the collection of the Sangiovese grapes, the vine variety prince of Tuscan red wines.
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The trebbiano is a grape very present in our territory and, perhaps, is the variety that is most influenced by external factors, such as climate and soil. The harvest is quite late considering that this is a grape resistant to disease, and the harvest time depends on the type of wine one wants to accomplish. In these cases, besides the above mentioned visual / taste inspection and field measurements, after having made internal weekly measurements using the hydrometer, the grapes are sampled and sent to the laboratory for analysis of their complete phenolic maturity, in addition to the degree and the acidity we measure the potential values of anthocyanins and their extractability, the values of polyphenols and tannins, of the pips and also the value of nitrogen present in the grapes. Thanks to these measurements we are able to agree upon the optimal date of harvest.

Andrea Ranfagni
Sommelier Fisar

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