Harvest: what kind of harvest do you adopt?

Manual or mechanics, which of them the most advantageous? This is one of the questions with which numerous producers scattered throughout the four corners of the world are faced, divided between the advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques.   

The harvest is one of the most exciting moments for those who will make a birth a Wine. It is the right time for the harvest of ripe grapes, a work wrapped in art, wisdom and sacrifice that varies according to the characteristics of each Region. However, you should always decide which system to use: manual or Mechanical? Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Mechanical harvesting emerged during the 1960s in the United States, and in the following years one third of the grapes destined for wine production in that country began to be harvested in this way. Over the years and the consequent technological developments, other countries have adopted the same system, much in part due to the high cost of labour.

Mechanical Harvest. Photo: Green Wine

Mechanization allows efficient harvesting, especially when grapes need to be quickly harvested. This is a more economical method, mainly for large areas of vines, being only necessary for one or two operators. However, there are some disadvantages to point out, of which the increase in fruit crushing is part, causing loss of juice, and dramatically increase a potential oxidation and fermentation problems. There is also the danger of mixing grapes with different maturing states, good grapes with others that are sick or even the danger of falling leaves in the extracted liquid. Unless they are regularly clean, the machines used in the harvest may become unhygienic, presenting higher risks of contamination.   

When tradition lasts

If on the one hand mechanization has won many fans, on the other, some insist in making prevail the old methods. Hand-harvest is the most traditional and, as we know, there are some cases where grapes cannot even be harvested otherwise, such as in the case of old vineyards.

In order for this activity to be as best possible, appropriate tools should be used in such a way that grapes suffer the least possible damage. The cut of the curls should be carried out with light pruning scissors. The grapes are then placed in wicker baskets or small plastic boxes that compose a small amount of grapes, so that the weight of the overlap does not detect them.

Harvest Manual . Photo: Adega Mayor

Of positive aspects of manual harvesting, less suffering is highlighted grapes at the time of harvest, to the extent that the handling of the grapes is softer, losing less juice. The selection of the curls is made in a way that more cared for, prevailing those who are in better condition. Exists also a lower danger of contamination due to lack of hygiene.

Relatively negative aspects, it is evidenced that it requires a working team difficult to find in isolated areas. On the other hand, there is a lack of flexibility and speed in harvesting. And lastly, it's a job not recommended to large producers, to the extent that the take into account capital and operating costs.

Magazines the advantages and disadvantages of each of these techniques, producers remain to adapt the best method of harvesting its possibilities and characteristics of its Vineyards.