Harvesting grapes to make wine is not only the first step individual grapes make towards the finished bottle, but it is also the busiest time of the year for a winery. Festivals and events focusing around the excitement of the annual grape harvest keep the tradition and anticipation in full bloom.
Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa, landing decidedly below the equator, typically harvest from February to April. Both hemispheres often have harvest extensions on either side of their harvest windows depending on the individual growing season, grape ripeness and various vintage factors. Late harvest ice wines are the glorious harvest exceptions in both hemispheres. The grapes are typically left on the vine to increase the sugar content and may be harvested up to a few months after the traditional harvest.
In general, sparkling wine grapes are harvested first (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) to ensure lower sugar levels (brix). Next, most of the white wine grapes make their way to crush. Viticulturally speaking, the red wine grapes are typically next in the harvest line, as they take a bit longer to reach full maturation. Finally, the ice wines make their way to crush after undergoing some serious dehydration on the vine to produce a raisin-like grape with highly concentrated sugars – perfect for dessert wines.