A Grape Harvest in Full Swing and How You Can Help
The Northern California grape harvest is in full swing now according to most reports and my talks with folks. And when I say “full swing” I mean to say there are all sorts of shenanigans going on during this year of the early and quick harvest.
• Red grapes mingling with white grapes on the crush pads
•Grapes choosing sugar over acids
• The cool Sonoma Coast giving up its grapes a month early
• Total harvests of many reds finished before October begins
• Winemakers scheduling Mexican and Hawaiian vacations in November and December instead of December and January
One of the most difficult issues for wineries right now due to the compressed harvest with so many grapes coming ripe simultaneously is finding the hands to pick the grapes then the space on the crushpad and int eh cellar. You want to pick the grapes when they are juuuuust right. But if you have no one to pick them, you let them sit on the vine and hope for fog. If you have no place on the crushpad or in the cellar, you don’t pick them. You keep them on the vine and hope for fog.
The grapes will get picked. However there’s gonna be some acidulation going on. pH numbers are, I’m told, pretty darned high in the grapes due to the quicker ripening season. Is that a bad thing? No. Ninety-nine percent of wine lovers and wine experts and Masters of Wine won’t be able to tell. But that’s story for another time.
Right now, if you want to help your favorite winemaker in their time of harvest, just stay out of their way.
And don’t schedule (or patronize) “harvest” events in the middle of crush! For the smaller wineries, the sales/marketing/administration/winemaking/farming staff is the same and out there bringing in the fruit and banging punchdowns at midnight and 6 am.
There’s going to “some” acidulation going on in Napa and Sonoma. That’s like saying there was “some” gambling going on at Rick’s Cafe tonight. This year would be unique only if no acidulation were required.
As for being able to tell, almost all professional tasters that I know can pick out wines with heavy acid adjustments. The heavier the more obvious it is and clunky the wine is. And as these overripe fruitbombs age, it becomes even more obvious as this acid from a bag that was never an organic part of the wine’s chemical structure begins to disengage from the fruit like some organoleptic zombie in the bottle.