How is the upcoming harvest showing up?

What a big surprise I got yesterday evening. For the first time this year, we decided to pick up some grapes to analyze its ripeness.

The weather is now warming up, the temperatures in Quinta Vale d’Agodinho oscillate between the 25º C (77ºF) before the sunrise to around 42ºC (108º F) at 2pm. But the weather has not been like this all the time. At the end of July the temperatures were lower, with some humidity and fog at the sunrise. The temperatures oscillated between 14º C (57º F) and then would warm up to 34º C (93º) in the middle of the day.

So before checking the current ripeness of the berries, I was expecting some delay in the harvest. I thought we would start around the 21st of September in Quinta Vale d’Agodinho. But I was wrong. The sugar content of the berries is increasing fast. At the same time the acids are dissolving quickly. The berries can be easily pulled out of the bunch and the grape skin is thin and not very elastic, which are signals of advanced ripeness.

Some other characteristics of the grapes are:

  • pips changing color from green to brown
  • very small berries and short bunches
  • high density of berries per bunch
  • around 8-9 bunches per vine, which is higher than in the last 2 years.

But the biggest surprise came out when I read the sugar content. The expected alcohol content of the berries was yesterday, on August 10th, of 11.86%. Exactly 2 years ago, August 10th 2007, the expected alcohol was 10.49% and on that year we started harvesting in September 19th, which is relatively early.

That said, this year as the things are going if it rains right before the harvest starts we can have some problems. The drops could flow inside the bunch and as the bunch is so compact, this humidity would hardly disappear leading to rotting. At the same time the water in the soil could be absorbed by the vine and directed to the grapes, and the skin doesn’t have much elasticity to handle with even more juice.

I am starting to get nervous. Today is the hottest day of all the Summer and it seems temperatures will continue high at least until the end of the week. Can’t wait for another round of ripening control.