Before a sports competition, a public presentation or an important meeting, there is always that feeling of controlled tension that invites us to take every minute with total concentration. Every movement is made with neatness and focus on detail because there is a healthy fear of doing things fully aware. Has it ever happened to you?
In our wineries, we also experience that moment of controlled tension. The grape harvest – the process of picking the grapes – is, for a winegrower, a crucial moment in the winemaking process. The quality of the grapes depends, to a large extent, on the quality of the wine. In just a few weeks (the time it takes to harvest the grapes), the work of the whole year comes to an end.
Who is in charge of the harvest?
During the harvest is when the vineyard and winery team are the most connected. Talks, conversations and visits from the winery to the vineyard (and vice versa) are very common during these weeks. “How about this year?”, “Is it going to be a good vintage?”, “How are the vines?”, “How was the harvest?”.
At Jean Leon, Josep Bruna together with his team of winegrowers, are in charge of carrying out the harvest. During these weeks, “everyone suffers from nerves about getting started,” Bruna himself points out. “The day to day is hectic and there is effort, dedication and devotion from the entire Jean Leon team”.
When is it time to harvest?
Knowing when it is time to harvest is not an easy task. At Jean Leon, the technical team carries out regular ripening controls. Weeks before the start of the harvest, they meet on a recurring basis to visit the vineyard and taste the grapes.
When is the right time to start harvesting? There are several factors to consider, but, above all, the alcohol content and acidity of the grapes are evaluated. In addition, the skins, pulp and seeds are also studied by tasting the grapes.
However, in the harvest process there are other variables that also determine the starting date, such as drought or rainfall. If it has been a year with higher temperatures in spring and summer, ripening is generally earlier. In the case of drought, the grapes are smaller, resulting in a more concentrated wine. “It is not only the analysis that counts, but also the situation at the vineyard to decide whether to harvest or not,” said Josep Bruna.
On the other hand, if it has been a year of heavy rains, it is advisable to consider the weather forecasts and decide, based on this information, what is the best time to harvest. In the case of repeated rains before the harvest, the grapes can suffer from rot or botrytis cinerea, which can negatively affect the harvest.
How does climate change affect the grape harvest?
Climate change is conditioning everything. The quality and quantity of grapes harvested in a vintage depends on the weather situation. Some meteorological phenomena are occurring (hail, storms, floods, droughts…) that directly affect the grapes, as well as the result of the harvest.
In 2022, less quantity is expected, but on a qualitative level the grapes will be healthy, which will allow us to produce a wine of exquisite quality. In the Penedès, the most immediate effect of climate change is drought, which has forced many wineries in the area to bring forward the start date of the harvest.
How long does the harvest last?
When the harvest arrives, the adventure begins. No two harvests are alike. Each year is a new challenge.
Normally, harvest usually begins at the end of August and can end during the last weeks of October. Each variety is harvested on different days, as ripening levels differ. “Each plot is also different,” Bruna remarks. The first variety to be harvested is the chardonnay, and Vinya La Scala’s cabernet sauvignon is always the last. This year, considering the weather, the harvest is expected to be finished by the end of September.