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Overnight harvests: nights of harvesting and excitement

31/08/2022 Winemaking

Harvesting grapes at night is nothing new. An increasing number of wineries are adopting this practice to promote grape and wine quality. Taking into account the temperature difference between day and night, which can vary up to 20 degrees Celsius, there are many advantages to harvesting at night. Let us explain:

The advantages of night harvesting

For grapes

The main components of grapes are sugars, acids and polyphenols. It is through these three components that the sweet, sour and bitter flavours of wine come. By avoiding high temperatures, the grapes suffer much less on their journey to the winery and hold onto all their organoleptic characteristics as much as possible.

For the winegrower

At harvest time, the grower has to put in many hours of physical work in the vineyard, so it is better to do that in a pleasant temperature. Planning to work at night avoids potential heat stress, sunburn or dehydration.
And working at night brings significant energy savings because once the grapes are in the winery, there is no need to go to great efforts to cool them to the optimum 18 degrees for winemaking.

For the wine

A temperature variation of about 20 degrees makes a proven difference in the quality of the wine and its production process, because the grapes arriving at an optimum temperature reduces the possibility of oxidation, avoids undesired pre-fermentation maceration and prevents spontaneous fermentation.

The night harvest in Rueda

Although night harvesting can be done with any grape variety, white grapes are the most suited because they have a less resistant skin than red grapes and a colour that is more sensitive to light. However, night harvesting isn’t right for every location. There are regions where it is more advisable than others. In places where temperatures are very low, it would be counterproductive because the night cold causes dampness and would damage the berry. On the other hand, in hot areas where daytime temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius, the weather, at this time, is the enemy of quality. The heat of the day would kill the aromas and the typical characteristics of the territory. For example, in the D.O. Rueda, (Valladolid, Segovia and Ávila) where the queen variety is the Verdejo, this harvesting system is used in almost all of its vineyards. This is a complex and delicate white grape that gets its sugar from the warmth of the sun and its acidity from the cold of the night, but must be harvested before the sun is too strong during the harvest if it is to avoid being damaged. The grapes are harvested racing the clock using harvesting machines, because visibility conditions make manual harvesting difficult. These are new generation machines that, thanks to their efficiency, are able to harvest the bunches on time while respecting the integrity of the grapes and the vineyard.  Although, of course, there are also devoted artisans who take gloves, scissors and a lantern to carry out their manual night harvest.

Wine tourism: a way to experience an overnight grape harvest

More and more wineries are signing up to night harvesting, and more and more tourists want to witness this in action. At night, the vineyard is filled with lights and curious onlookers who want to experience first-hand the magic of a show that looks just like the best science fiction. A real hive of emotions and activity where winemakers, winegrowers, winery managers, locals and tourists gather to excitedly enjoy the most anticipated moment of the year. So if you have the opportunity to sign up for this overnight wine tourism, don’t miss out. There’s a sleepless night waiting for you!

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