Grape crush season begins when the grapes start to turn color in mid to late summer. The actual picking of grapes happens between August and November in the Northern Hemisphere. This is an important time of the year for winegrowers that depend on wine production, such as those in Napa Valley.
Whether you plan on visiting Napa during grape crush season or not, understanding the basics of harvest season is good for everyone to know!
The Veraison Stage
Grape ripening begins with the growth period called veraison, which is where the fruit hangs from the vines and transforms from hard, small berries into soft, plump grapes. Vines enter this stage about 30 to 70 days depending on their type and the weather. The grapes begin to lose their green color and take on mature hues such as greenish yellow, red or purple. The grapes soften and enlarge, too. Although you can’t see it happening, the vine begins pumping sugars into the fruit while the acidity decreases.
The Ripening Stage
Veraison doesn’t happen at the same time for all grapes, even those on the same vine. Typically, the ones that are exposed to more sun and warmth get a head start on the process. Depending on the grape variety, the ripening process takes about 30 to 70 days after veraison. Growers monitor the grapes very carefully to ensure that they are ripening and getting sweeter. The higher the sugar, the higher the potential alcohol, since the sugars are fermented into alcohol.
The Harvest Stage
When the time is right, the harvest begins. Workers are sent out to pick individual parcels or rows. Some wineries still harvest grapes by hand, while others harvest them mechanically. The trouble with mechanical grape harvesters is that they can’t tell the difference between ripe, underripe or rotten grapes. But, they are faster and more efficient than by hand.
The Fermentation Stage
When the best grapes have been picked, they are crushed so that the yeast can start fermenting. Crush destemmers are used for this process to break open the skin and expose the juice and pulp. Winemaking begins with fermentation, and before you know it, wonderful wine selections are made!
Be a part of grape crush season by booking a summer package at Napa Valley Hotels and Suites!