What is the right time to start the harvest?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by wine lovers, curious people, and enthusiasts! We asked our agronomist Mauro Bennati who has been following our vines for 23 years, and he has seen quite a few vintages!
The answer is not simple and obvious because the decision of the exact moment is based on 3 different types of maturation of the grapes: technological, phenolic, and aromatic, which however are often reached at different times (generally between the second half of August and the end of October) depending on the seasonal trend, the grape variety, and its microclimate.
Anticipate or delay
Technological maturation concerns the relationship between sugars and acids. As time passes, acids decrease and sugars increase, so if you want to get a must with a higher acidity, the grape harvest is done a bit earlier (as we do here at Castello Monterinaldi with the Sangiovese we use for our Rosato, for example); if you want a must rich in sugar, then you delay the harvest.
Find the right balance
The phenolic maturation involves the phenolic component of the grape, more concentrated in the skin and in the seeds. This type of maturation takes into account the accumulation of anthocyanins (which give colour to the wine) and tannins (which provide astringency) and their solubility.
When the grapes reach phenolic maturity, the skin cells membrane is in the ideal situation to dissolve the phenolic components in the must, especially the anthocyanins. In the period prior to phenolic maturity, the tannins that can be extracted from the seeds assume greater importance, while for those from the skins you have a greater extractability in case of over-maturation of the grapes, when the anthocyanins tend to decrease a little.
In other words, we can say that leaving the grapes to ripen a little longer, there is an increase in the tannic phenolic component which contributes to making the wine more structured, and a slight decrease in the anthocyanin content, which adds colour to the wine.
Naturally the best outcome would be the technological and phenolic maturity coinciding, as a result of a perfect adaptation of the vine to the pedoclimatic environment and an excellent seasonal trend.
Maturation and Aromas
Aromatic maturation is linked to the accumulation of varietal aromas, especially of the terpenes group. These substances can be free in the pulp and therefore perceived also by chewing a grape, as it is the case for the Muscat, or they can be bound to sugar molecules, and in this case they will become volatile and therefore perceptible only after hydrolysis reactions in the must and in the wine.
The accumulation of aromatic substances in the skins tends to increase during maturation, to then decrease if the latter is prolonged. Grape maturation depends on many factors, such as the exposed leaf surface, the quantity of bunch/vine, the number and compactness of the grapes in the bunch, the availability of water in the soil, and many more.
Therefore, there is not a single perfect day for the beginning of the harvest valid for all companies of a single territory, but the decision to start harvesting the grapes is taken according to the type of wine one wants to obtain! A decision that is not easy and of great responsibility that Mauro Bennati must make every year…
This year for him is also a year full of festivities and we take advantage of this article to wish him a fantastic 50th birthday!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAURO!