Well… I hate to say this out loud, but it hasn’t been raining as much recently. Let’s hold on to hope that these high pressure weather patterns that are predicted for next 10 days continue on for six weeks.
Muscadines: Harvest has commenced for early-season, fresh market cultivars in south Georgia. Harvest of mid-season, fresh market cultivars will pick up over the next couple of weeks throughout south Georgia and the piedmont. Juice / processing cultivars (Carlos and Noble) are likely about three or four weeks out from harvest, depending on vineyard location.
Winegrapes in west Georgia / piedmont: Blanc du Bois (BdB) is likely all harvested by now. There have been several reports of needing to pick BdB early due to rot; this is not surprising given it is a rot-prone cultivar the supra-optimal rainfall we have received since bloom. Lomanto is likely all harvested at this point. Some have also harvested their Lenoir and Villard blanc, but I am certain that those two cultivars and Norton remain to be picked in some west Georgia / piedmont vineyards.
North Georgia: Early whites and Chardonnay for sparkling has been/is being picked. Chardonnay will be picked for still wine production over the next couple weeks. Hybrid whites (Vidal, blanc Traminette, Chardonel) will be picked over the next couple weeks as well. Harvest of several reds will likely start in the first or second week of September; later-ripening reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Norton) and Petit Manseng may be harvested around the second or third week of September.
Deciding when to harvest: As I mentioned in the previous post – we may have to sacrifice some maturity for bringing rot-free fruit into the winery; this will be cultivar-dependent, and more attention will need to be given to thin-skinned, tight-clustered, rot-prone whites (Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Vidal blanc) and rot-prone reds (Merlot) relative to cultivars like Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Norton, Petit Verdot, and Petit Manseng. Go out and scout for diseases. Taste the fruit. Observe the skin integrity and seed texture and color. Measure sugars, acids and pH. Use all tools (sensory, chemical, weather forecast) to make judicious harvest decisions.
Harvesting “early” can produce lighter, acid-forward wine styles (table/food wines, sparkling wines, rose wines, etc.). One may decide to take a conservative approach and pick some of the crop early to make lighter wine styles and hedge bets in hanging the rest of the crop in aim of making a full-bodied, round wine. Hanging fruit does not necessarily guarantee higher sugars, but does generally guarantee higher pH, lower acidity, and greater risk of fruit falling apart – keep this in mind when forecasting wine style goals and what will need to be done in the winery to amend unbalanced fruit chemistry. Yes – fruit with low Brix will need amended by chaptalization (sugar addition). But then again fruit with low acidity and high pH will also need amended with acids. Which is the right way, or the lesser of two evils? Not my place to say. But – please keep in mind that sugar is far from the only indicator of maturity; Brix should therefore not be the lone factor used to decide when to harvest. As you hopefully have over the past five months – pay close attention to the weather forecast. Please pick the fruit if it is creeping up in pH and falling apart and there is hurricane forecasted. However, your Cabernet franc and Petit Verdot might benefit from longer hang time if the fruit is rot-free and sunny weather is forecasted.
Our team will be extremely busy as we run about and harvest our research plots over the next five to six weeks. We will see y’all on the other side.
A SINCERE GOOD LUCK TO ALL – may the dry weather be with all of us.