Wine Harvest 2009 – Xarel.lo
August, September, October, the most important months for a winemaker and time of great expectations as to the outcome of a year’s work consisting of daily examination, surveillance, meticulous scrutiny and caring treatment.
We harvest a variety when it has reached its optimum state of ripening, namely when the concentration of sugar and acidity has found the balance and is at its best. Following certain parameters we first harvest sparkling wine grapes like Chardonnay, Xarel.lo and Parellada because we want to obtain lower sugar levels. Red wine grapes are usually harvested at last because they need more time to achieve complete maturation. Here too, we wait for the acidity level and the polifenoles, compounds that give the red grape its reddish colour, to reach full equilibration. After all everything depends on the weather, on the amount of rain in particular. Thus too much rain would certainly increase the quantity of the grapes but it would as well dilute them which means that the grapes would loose some of the aromas accumulated in their skins and that on the other hand would harm the quality of the wine.
A crucial decision is the harvest method which can be done mechanical or by hand. It’s hard to say whether the first or the latter is more adequate as there are pros and contras for both of them. Traditional hand harvesting surely grants better treatment as the picker collects only the mature fruits that are in best condition whereas the machine is unable to separate and collects everything the good and the bad grapes. Furthermore the grape suffers a lot of pressure and even runs the risk of oxidation which can cause that the grape juice comes out and produces an out of control fermentation. Consequently the wine would become sick. Hand harvesting guarantees better care and almost no pressure due to the fact that we collect in light plastic buckets that keep the grapes safe. However hand picking is time consuming and expensive for we have to employ more labour than we would need for mechanical harvesting.
We at Montau de Sadurní do the harvest both ways. We collect the Xarel.lo by hand, mainly due to the fact that the vineyards are too old and the machine would probably harm them. The rest is being harvested mechanically. Last week we picked the Xarel.lo, in more or less good weather conditions, with on and off rains. We obtained less quantity because we had a rainless summer but I can affirm that the result is much better than last year. The grapes are juicier and have accumulated more flavour and more aroma.
Too bad that the economic situation is as critical as it is at the moment; Catalunya still comprises 140.000 hectolitres surplus over a production of three million per year. A very paradox situation as this occurrence will provoke a mighty price reduction for a kilo of grapes that have never been as good as this year.