What happens during wine harvest?
Coming into the new year is always a really exciting time of renewal, and a big part of that for us in the Hunter is the harvest process, also commonly referred to as vintage. After months of carefully nurturing our vines, the grapes are finally ripe enough to begin picking. We get a lot of questions about our harvest, so we thought we’d cover some of the most frequently asked queries about the most exciting time of the year…
When does harvest start and peak in Hunter Valley?
Harvest in the Hunter Valley generally kicks off around late January and peaks around February and March when grapes have the perfect balance of sugar and flavour, depending on the type of grape variety or the type of wine they’ll produce.
Why is it so important to be patient when harvesting?
When deciding if the grapes are ready to pick, we are looking for a balance between grape sugars and fruit flavour. These can happen independently of one another which is why we need to make sure they are in perfect balance. By doing so we will have enough ‘sugar’ to ferment to alcohol while retaining those wonderful varietal characteristics we know you love!
In the Hunter Valley our white grape varieties are the earliest to ripen; Verdelho and Semillon are the first to be picked. Chardonnay and our red varieties are soon to follow.
The Hunter Valley has one of the most concentrated, and often shortest, vintage periods in Australia with other grape growing regions harvesting toward the end of March and often into April. We source varieties from outside the Hunter Valley, meaning our winemaking team has a long and drawn-out vintage period before (temporarily) hanging up their boots once all fruit is safely in the winery!
What is the process of harvesting?
When the fruit is ripe we are ready to pick! Typically in the Hunter Valley we have two options: machine harvesting or hand picking. As our vintage period also coincides with the hot and humid weather of Summer, we prefer to pick in the cool of the morning, often before dawn. This means that mechanical harvesting is the preferred option as it allows the fruit to remain cool and fresh on its journey from the vineyard to the winery.
In years where we experience high summer rainfall and the vineyards are too wet for a heavy grape harvester, we rely on teams of hand pickers. This process, as you can imagine, can be much slower.
As is often said, good wine starts in the vineyard. Our viticulturist carefully nurtures the vines throughout their lifecycle, with their aim being to ensure the fruit is at optimum ripeness. This allows the winemaker to craft wines that are true to region and varietal style.
Each vintage is unique, with no two exactly the same. This is the beauty of this industry. While we all relish a refreshing shower of rain after a hot and humid day, we can often hear the viticulturist and winemaker groan at the threat of what this can mean for the ripening fruit on the vines - but more on this later...