We’re approaching mid-September, which means that the grape harvest in Spain is in full swing. Here, in D.O. Rueda, the time to harvest the Verdejo grapes has arrived. This process is done in two different ways. The grapes can be manually harvested during the day, while the mechanical harvest of this grape variety needs to take place by night. Most wineries use both methods for their harvest, although the mechanical way is preferred.
I’ve had a look at one of the wineries in the D.O. Rueda where the harvest is partly done by hand, which is Bodegas Mocén. Here the pickers work two by two in several lines, cutting the grapes and putting them in a basket, while the truck moves along with them. They have to be very careful with the grapes, so that they do not get squashed in the baskets or truck. In addition to this, the often hot days, the bending down constantly and the heavy baskets, which need to be carried to the truck every time they’re full, do not make this job an easy one and I am sure I would not even be able to do this for ten minutes. However, the pickers are all very experienced and really enjoy their work.
As I said before, the mechanical harvest happens at night. As can be expected this is done for a good reason: to make sure that the quality of the grapes is at its best when they arrive at the winery.
The day temperatures in September can still be very high. When the grapes are harvested mechanically, the skins of the grapes can burst open during this process and if that happens with these high temperatures, oxidation takes place immediately. Since the temperature drops considerably at night, this process can be avoided through harvesting at night. Another important fact is that the enzymatic activity is much more stable at lower temperatures, which benefits the preservation of the freshness and aromas of the grapes.
The mechanical way of harvesting is often preferred over hand-picking, since it happens very fast. The high harvest machines drive through the vineyards with the vines in the middle of the machine, which shakes them so the grapes will fall into the storage space. This can often be done in only a couple of hours, after which the grapes will be brought to the winery.
Great news for the wine lovers like you and me, who are eager to see the harvest from close by! Nowadays there are numerous wineries in D.O. Rueda, such as Emina Rueda, which invite tourists to experience this process, both during the day and at night!
If you cherish your hours of sleep (like I do), you can join the harvest day experience of Emina Rueda, while the real night owls can explore Emina’s harvest by night. Both experiences include a visit to the winery and gardens, the harvest and a workshop grape tasting, wine tasting of 3 wines and a tasting of local products. If you want, you can also add a night in a Spanish Parador to both harvest experiences.
Inspired to get involved in harvest? Take a look at the most exciting tours in the world’s best wine regions.