The elements of a great harvest are both unique and vital to a successful vintage. Harvest times depends upon many factors, including the year’s weather conditions, crop size, and ripeness. The decision of when to pick the grapes has a huge impact on the wine’s complexity, flavor, and richness. Grapes picked too young can fall short in these factors – while overripe grapes can add too much sugar and alcohol to the wine. The perfectly ripe grape harvest is something every winemaker seeks.
Additionally, great harvest times for every type of wine varies – depending on where the grape is grown and the type of grape. The grape of choice in many Pacific Northwest vineyards is Pinot, which is usually harvested anytime in fall – depending on the year’s weather. This is true here in Youngberg Hill and is true for many wineries in the Willamette Valley.
Determining harvest time includes working out how sweet the grapes are. Sweetness/sugar levels will affect the amount of alcohol in the wines. Think back for a second…what are the sweetest grapes you have eaten? If you thought raisins, you were on to something. Dried fruit has more sugar in it than fresh, perfectly ripe fruit. The last thing you want in your Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris is a oversweet, raisiny taste and an alcohol level that overwhelms the complexity and depth the wine could show if the grapes were ripe during harvest.
As sugar levels in wine grapes rise, acid levels fall. You want the perfect balance of these two factors to create a well-balanced wine. With our wine, we want to showcase the land and the grapes – this means the wine itself must be balanced perfectly to allow these amazing factors to shine through.
Another important aspect in determining harvest time is the physiological ripeness of the grapes. This isn’t just tasting the grapes and deciding they taste good enough to eat – we have to take a look at the whole grape including the seeds, skin, and stems. If those aren’t ripe, they will affect the wine flavor.
Deciding upon the perfect harvest time is a heart stopping procedure that causes plenty of excitement and anxiety each and every year. But, I think you’ll agree that we hit the nail on the head with our 2013 harvest. Our newest Pinot Gris is out and we think you’ll find it’s smooth and stunning.