“Vendemmia” or the grape harvest in Italy is the period when the grapes get picked up from the plant. Later some grape types will be sold on the fruit markets and other will be used for the wine making.
How the grapes grow
The grape vine starts its life cycle at the end of winter when the air temperature increases and the plant wakes up from the winter sleep. The buds grow and produce new branches and leaves. Whole bunches of buds start to appear here and there on the branches. Later in the period between May and June they will transform into a bunch of little flowers.
The blossoming lasts for about 15 days. Once it’s over the real grapes start to grow on the flowers’ place. The grape pips are tiny at the beginning, but they grow rapidly and gain the natural size at the beginning of September.
However, the duration of the process described above varies from one grape type to another. Some grape types, like table grapes, are ready to be harvested already in July.
Manual and mechanical techniques during the grape harvest
The classic period or grape harvest is between September and October. Timing is crucial, especially when it comes to the harvesting grapes for wine. When the grapes reach their maximum ripeness the quantity of sugars in them is perfect for the human consumption as well as for the wine making. For this reason the precise moment for the grape harvest is defined by the type of grapes and the purpose of the wine maker. What is more it also depends on the climate conditions of the particular year and of the location of the vinery.
As to the grape harvest techniques, during the “vendemmia” the grapes can be picked up both manually and using special harvesting machines. The first method is definitely more time-consuming and costs more, but sometimes manual selection of grapes is necessary, for example for the production of the high-quality sparkling wine. The harvesting machines let harvest the grapes quickly and as a comparably low price. For this reason this method is often used during the grape harvest in Italy.
The harvesting machines slightly shake the branches from the left to the right or from the top to the bottom so that the ripe grapes fall down and get collected in wooden boxes. Each box contains the quantity of grapes that doesn’t let them smash each other.
Finally, the so-called “late grape harvest” happens after the rest of the grapes are already picked up. This term is used for the straw wine production. During the late grape harvest the wine makers pick up the over-matured grapes with highest levels of sugars.
The grapes are harvested. And what happens next? Then the time for wine making comes. But this is a completely different story – we will talk about it in another blog post, stay tuned!