When it comes to our land, we always go for the most organic, sustainable and holistic method here at Youngberg Hill. This is because we believe the method that works for Mother Nature is the method that will work best for our wine. Our wine philosophy extends to using the best harvesting method for our grapes.
That said, there are two basic ways to harvest grapes. One is by hand and one is by machine. Of course, a winery may choose to include some machines into processes before or after the harvest – like a destemmer or a tractor. But the harvest itself can be done either by hand or by machine. We will consider these two methods:
One of the greatest advantages of mechanical harvesting – and why many large winemakers choose this type of harvesting – is speed. Just as is the case in making manufacturing pretty much anything, when you add machines, things go faster. This means a large, corporate winemaker might be tempted by mechanical harvesting to save money.
Another reason why speed is important to these large grape growers is they don’t want their grapes to become overripe. This can create bad wine that needs a lot of extra additives to make it palatable.
Harvesting grapes by hand has a major advantage over mechanical harvesting. That is: quality of fruit.
Hand harvested grapes are more precisely what we want in our wine. This is because the person harvesting the grapes can consider what they are harvesting as they go. There is another process later, during winemaking, during which people are able to go through the harvest again and pick out any unwanted grapes, stems, leaves, etc. But the hand harvest is the first line of defense against bad bunches.
This extra sorting power may not seem like it makes a big difference in the quality of wine produced, but it actually does. Not only are there more eyes on the grapes that do go in to your wine, many substandard grapes (unripe grapes or raisins) can be removed before they get to the crusher. When you consider that it takes about 30 vines of grapes to make one barrel of wine – you see where the difference comes in. Say there were 5 raisins and 10 unripe grapes, plus one leaf per cluster. That’s about 200 raisins and 400 unripe grapes – plus 40 leaves that hand harvesting removed from that barrel of wine.
Another reason behind our hand harvesting preference is that Pinot Noir is a delicate fruit. The process of machine harvesting punctures the fruit slightly, so in order to maintain a full cluster of intact grapes, we have to hand harvest.
Hand harvesting is one of the many ways we stay true to our grapes and the land which produced them. Come taste the difference!