What is it and why is it important in the harvest?


Harvest ripeness control refers to the process by which winegrowers and winemakers monitor and evaluate the stage of ripeness of grapes before harvest. The ripeness of the grapes plays a key role in the quality, flavor, aroma, and overall characteristics of the wine. Consequently, harvesting the grapes at the right time of ripeness is essential for obtaining high-quality wines.

Controlling grape ripeness involves the evaluation of several key parameters:

  • Probable Alcohol: It entails measuring the sugar content in the grapes, usually expressed in degrees Brix. As the grapes ripen, the sugar levels increase, which directly affects the alcohol content of the wine. There are several techniques to carry out this measurement, but one of the most commonly used instruments is the refractometer in which a small amount of grape juice is introduced and the probable alcohol of that must is read through a scale.
  • Acid Maturation: It refers to the reduction of acids in grapes, such as malic acid and tartaric acid. Measuring the total acidity and pH of grapes is important in determining the balance between acidity and sweetness in wine.
  • Phenolic Maturation: It refers to the development of phenolic compounds in grapes, such as tannins, anthocyanins (responsible for color) and other components that contribute to the structure and complexity of the wine. Observation of the colour, flavour and texture of grape skins is an important indicator of phenolic ripeness.
  • Flavour and Aroma: The development of the desired flavors and aromas in the grapes is crucial to the sensory profile of the wine. This involves assessing the intensity and complexity of the flavors and aromas that develop as the grapes ripen.

Ripeness control at harvest is a combination of practical knowledge, observation, laboratory analysis and modern technologies. Winegrowers and winemakers closely monitor weather conditions, grape developments and the results of laboratory analyses to determine the optimal time to harvest. Harvesting grapes too early can result in excessive green and acidic flavors, while harvesting too late can lead to overripe flavors, loss of acidity , and an overall imbalance in the wine.

Thus, the control of ripeness in the harvest plays a critical role in ensuring that the grapes are harvested at the optimal time, allowing the winemaker to have the best conditions to produce a high-quality wine with desirable characteristics.

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