Harvest time in South Africa
Posted on March 13th, 2013
Contrary to wine-producing countries in the Northern hemisphere, the harvest period in South Africa takes place during Ireland’s springtime. Regardless of the hemisphere there are of course mostly similarities. In South Africa, the main difference is that there is more hand picking of the grapes than in other countries. This leads in general to a better quality wine than machine picked grapes as there is better quality control and the selection process is more thorough. Also there is less damage to the grapes when they are picked by hand. And this is definitely starting to be recognised internationally.
In general, sparkling wine grapes are harvested first (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) to ensure lower sugar levels. Next, most of the white wine grapes are picked. Then, red wine grapes as they take longer to mature.
The particular grape variety, the ripeness and the weather are of the most influence on when to harvest. In essence it’s the grape’s tannin, acid and sugar content that determines how ripe the grape actually is that will determine the quality of the finished product. The weather has a huge impact on the wine that is produced. The best weather for growing grapes starts with a winter that is cool but not too dry. However, once spring arrives no one wants too much rain and throughout the summer cool nights with warm days are the idea conditions. During the actual harvest, like with most crops, the wine makers are keeping their fingers crossed for dry weather.
Harvest time is a busy social period as well, as there are many festivals and events on to celebrate the reaping of the crop. The vineyards in South Africa are much more inclusive than say French or Italian vineyards during harvest time. Members of the public can engage in picking and stomping and even making their own barrel of wine. The traditional picnic baskets and wine-tasting services are ramped up and there is a great buzz at the vineyards around this time with additional activities laid on ranging from all-you-can-eat buffets, fishing contests, face-painting, musicians, clowns… you get the picture. Family-oriented party central!