It’s October, even though you wouldn’t quite know it around here. But, I can’t help it, when I think of fall, I think of crisp, colorful days—deep red willows, golden aspen leaves, the occasional orange maple. I start to get a little hungry like the bears and want things to warm my bones, like stew and red wine.
In North America, October is typically the final month of harvest for wineries, which also means a cornucopia of activities and festivals in honor of wine.
By now, sparkling and white wine grapes have already been harvested and crushed—since they require lower sugar levels. Red wines are next on the list, followed by late-harvest/ice wines. Viticulturalists determine when to harvest their grapes based on the variety, the level of ripeness and the weather. Tannin, acid and sugar content are what determine when the grapes reach appropriate ripeness.
During harvest, wineries want dry, cool weather and often will harvest the grapes in the early morning hours, to ensure the fruit doesn’t heat up in transport. They also take great care not to split or bruise the grapes during harvest—for it can compromise the quality of the resulting wine. That is why there is great debate over mechanical versus hand harvesting. Hand harvesting, many argue, allows for greater care and discernment regarding the quality of the grapes harvested.
What’s cool though, is that you don’t have to know all this stuff to participate in harvest or at least celebrate it. Most wineries have some sort of festival or course offered in the fall centered on harvest. You can jump in on a grape stomp, take a tasting tour, learn the process from start to finish and even help with the harvest. Usually, these activities are accompanied by good music, good food and often, good causes. There is a whole palate of colorful activities to celebrate the season. And when you’re done can add the delicate, pale yellow hue of grape leaves to your vision of fall, while you ponder change over a good glass of syrah.
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