February 28, 2018 | By RJS Craft Winemaking
In February to April of every year, the Southern Hemisphere is busy harvesting grapes. These regions include Argentina, South Africa, and Australia. In terms of knowing the best time to harvest, the best winemakers are so familiar with the taste of ripeness that they can walk down a row tasting grapes and know intuitively when to pick. However, there is a fair amount of science to back this up. Did you know that the timing of the harvest is the single most important decision a grower or winemaker can make each year?
The wines typically harvested in February are: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, with Chenin Blanc and Viognier grapes being picked in end of February to early March. Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz grapes are picked early to mid-march, with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes being picked last in end of March to early April.
Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere (Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, Napa/Sonoma, Canada), depending on factors like microclimate, elevation, and grape variety, is under ‘bud break’. As the name suggests, new green growth appears on the vines during this stage. Magically, entire regions go from brown and drab – to green and vibrant over a few weeks. This sets the stage for a productive season. This process begins anytime from early March to late April. Cooler, high altitude locales or low, frost-prone valleys often experience a late bud break while warm regions like Australia’s Margaret river can sometimes go green in winter. Flowering then occurs in June, and harvest is in late August to early October.