The keys to the harvest

The grape harvest represents the most well-known work in the winery for wine lovers, both amateurs and those who have an in-depth knowledge of everything related to this world. Today in this post we want to explain what the grape harvest consists of and why it means the culmination of a long process of work in the vineyard to move on to winemaking in the winery.  

Martínez Bujanda Family
we believe that the grape harvest is the moment when the field and the winery merge to pass from the land to our hands. This is where the work and expertise of our winemaker Lauren Rosillo comes into play, to decide the perfect moment to pick the grapes. The Tempranillo variety, hence its name, is the one that is harvested earlier, since its ripening cycle is earlier than others, such as graciano, garnacha, cabernet, syrah or petit verdot.

The grape, protagonist of the grape harvest

The time of harvest is the most important decision that the technical team faces each year, although if there is no previous good work in the field from pruning, it is difficult to guarantee the necessary ripening balance. However, in addition to the economic cost of field work, quality viticulture has a ‘cost’ in terms of production. An example of this is that our average yields are always lower than those established each year by the Regulatory Councils.

The truth is that there is no pattern that determines the optimum time for harvesting; each vineyard has specific conditions that, in addition to the variety, also depend on climatological factors such as temperature, humidity, soil type and the type of wine we want to produce.

Despite being a process that takes place between the months of August and October, these conditions mean that some harvests are harvested earlier or later.

In any case, we carry out sampling days prior to the harvest, an examination that will determine the optimum time for harvesting.  The commitment to Finca Antigua wines, for example, forces us to work to the maximum with the concept of selection in the winery and especially in the field, to ensure that our wines are always at the highest level.

How is an optimal harvest performed?

In our winery in the D.O. Rueda, Finca Montepedroso, we harvest at night for the benefits this brings. “The nighttime temperature helps when picking and handling the bunches because the grapes are harder, so it avoids fermentative decontrol and you work with fresher grapes,” explains Lauren Rosillo. “The grapes rehydrate at night, so picking them in these circumstances reduces the future volume of alcohol in the wine,” says our renowned winemaker.

The Rueda area has a continental climate, which means short, hot summers and long, cold winters. September is characterized by high daytime temperatures and cool nights, which is why the grapes are harvested at night, where the effect of oxygen is less and does not cause early fermentation.

The grapes are transferred to the tanks, where they ferment by gravity and rest on their lees for about five months, with weekly stirring, a slight aging process that produces that intense and forceful mouthfeel that differentiates Finca Montepedroso from the rest of conventional Ruedas from the very first moment.

At Valpiedra Estate in addition to the characteristic Riojan climate and the microclimate of the meander of the Ebro where our vines are planted, the stony soil, which partially retains the heat, means that the harvest is usually earlier than in other areas of La Rioja Alta.

The grapes are harvested by hand and by varieties: we start by harvesting Tempranillo, and at the same time Maturana, which has a late budding but short cycle, to finish with Graciano and Garnacha. The grapes are selected both in the vineyard and on the sorting table at the winery entrance.

As these are single-vineyard wines, the harvesting and fermentation process must be very careful and closely monitored by the winemaker. Regulatory Council of the D.O. Ca. Rioja.

Finca Antigua
has an area of 1,000 hectares, of which  421 are vineyards, figures that give an idea of the activity that takes place these days in the winery. The thermal amplitude (the difference in temperature between night and day) is key in the ripening of the vineyard, since coolness is necessary for the anthocyanins – responsible for the color of the wine, among other functions – to develop in the berries. This is the great differential asset of Finca Antigua and it is possible thanks to the altitude of our vineyards.

The cold at night is the great ally of our vineyards and also of our technicians and harvest personnel who pick the grapes at night to ensure that they enter the winery in perfect condition. 

  We usually start with Muscat, whose sugar content is completely natural thanks to the sun exposure of the vineyards, to continue with the earlier red varieties, followed by the white varieties and finally with the later varieties, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A long road

The grape harvest, as we have already mentioned, is one more step in the winemaking process, perhaps the best known. It is part of a process that we carry out with dedication and care and that Familia Martínez Bujanda has been doing for more than 135 years. strengthening each vintage with a commitment to sustainable viticulture, with the study and parceling of the estates and with the inalienable idea of making wines that transmit the character of our terroirs.

We are already thinking about next year’s harvest!

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