Domenico Winery + Osteria

7 Important Things to Know About Wine Harvest

Wine harvest, also known as the grape harvest or grape harvest season, is a critical and exciting time in the winemaking process. Here are seven essential things to know about wine harvest:

Timing is Crucial

For winemakers, harvest starts in the vineyard. Where a grape is planted and how it is taken care of leading up to harvest will have everything to do with how and when it will be harvested and thus turned into wine.

The timing of the grape harvest is critical and varies depending on the grape variety, region, and desired wine style. Winemakers carefully monitor the grapes’ sugar levels (measured in Brix), acidity, and flavor development to determine when they are ripe and ready for harvest.

Hand vs. Mechanical Harvesting

Manual Wine Harvest

Grapes can be harvested either manually by hand or mechanically using machines. Manual harvesting is often preferred for high-quality wines, as it allows for selective picking of the best fruit. Machines are faster and more cost-effective but can be less precise.

Yes, Winemakers Harvest at Night!

In many wine regions, grapes are often harvested during the cooler nighttime hours. This way, freshly picked grapes do not bake in the hot sun waiting to be transported back to the winery. A winemaker’s nightmare is grapes that get too hot and begin to ferment in the bins!

So, to help p preserve the grapes’ natural acidity and enhance the wine’s overall quality, winemakers will harvest at night when temperatures are cool. Fortunately, many of the most desirable wine regions have a substantial diurnal range, making the evenings very cool.

You will find nighttime harvests happen often in many California AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) where daytime temperatures during the harvest season can be extraordinarily high.

Wait – When is Wine Harvest Season?

The timing of wine harvest season varies depending on the grape variety, the specific wine region, and the prevailing climate in that region. In general, wine harvest typically occurs during late summer and early to mid-autumn (August to November). However, climate change continues to affect the grape’s growing season, pushing harvest earlier in certain regions.

In the Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe, and Asia), harvest for sparkling wines and white wines often begins in August and can extend into September. Red grape varieties usually start in early to mid-September and may continue into October. This of course depends on the grape type specifically.

Moving to the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa), white grape varieties are often harvested from late February to early March while red grape harvest usually starts in early to mid-March and may continue into April.

Keep in mind that these are general timeframes, and the exact timing can vary widely depending on factors such as the grape variety, the region’s climate, and the specific weather conditions during the growing season. Additionally, some wineries may choose to harvest grapes earlier for wines intended to be lighter and more acidic, while others may wait for riper grapes to produce fuller-bodied wines. Ultimately, the decision on when to harvest is a crucial one that significantly impacts the quality and style of the wine.

Sorting Grapes

A small, but crucial step of wine harvest! After grapes are picked, they are typically sorted to remove any damaged or underripe fruit. This can be done by hand or with specialized sorting machines.

One Question: Crush or Whole Cluster (or Both?)

Grapes going into destemmer

After harvest, grapes can be crushed immediately to separate the juice from the skins, or they can be fermented as whole clusters. The choice depends on the winemaker’s desired style and the grape variety. Winemakers sometimes separate the grapes to do both – this of course depends highly on the winemaking style and grape variety.


Once the grapes are harvested and processed, fermentation begins. During this stage, yeast converts the grape sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The temperature, yeast strain, and fermentation vessel type can all impact the final wine.

The characteristics of the grape variety and the influence of the terroir (soil, climate, and geography) are most evident during the harvest and winemaking process. Winemakers aim to preserve and express these unique qualities in the final wine.

You Can Harvest, Too!

During harvest season, wineries often employ temporary workers or “harvest crews” to pick the grapes. While larger wineries will have temporary workers pick grapes or use mechanical harvest tools, many small wineries allow wine lovers and professionals to join in on the fun. You can harvest for just a week or make a whole internship out of it if you’re very interested in winemaking.

Also, many wine regions around the world celebrate the grape harvest with festivals and events. These celebrations often include grape stomping, wine tastings, and other festivities that bring the community together to commemorate the harvest season.

The grape or wine harvest is a pivotal moment in winemaking, as the quality of the grapes at this stage significantly impacts the wine’s overall character and potential. It requires careful planning, expertise, and a deep understanding of the grapes, the terroir, and the winemaking process to produce exceptional wines.

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