ESRA Mallorca

English-Speaking Residents′ Association - Mallorca

Nov 17, 2017

September 2016


Many wineries in Mallorca have already started picking up the grapes for their wines, and climate change (amongst other aspects) surely has something to do with that. Not a long time ago, no one would have started harvesting before September, but the warmer temperatures we have nowadays have shortened the necessary time to reach an optimal grape ripeness so that it has become usual to begin the harvest in the middle of August.

Nevertheless, the big question is how to know when the grapes are ready to be picked up. Obviously, the wineries do a series of analysis in order to know the different parameters involved in the ripening process, as for example the fruit acidity, the sugar content, which is related with the alcohol content after fermentation, and the phenolic ripeness, which has to do with the maturity of the skins and seeds and is related with the body of the future wine.

But for those people who do not have the means for doing these sort of analysis, the most useful tool is, as it is in many other domains, observation. There are two key moments to consider: blooming and veraison. It is important to write down the date when more or less half of the grapes of a parcel are blooming. This way it is possible to make a first estimation of when the harvest will take place. It will be, depending on the grape variety, in approximately between ninety and one hundred days.

The other and more important aspect to take into account is, as I previously said, veraison. In viticulture (grape-growing), veraison is the onset of ripening. The term is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is "change of colour of the grape berries ", and represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening (many changes in berry development occur at this time). Again, it is important to write down the date when half of the grapes have changed their colour (from green to a yellowish hue in the case of white grapes, and to a reddish shade in the case of red grapes). Ripeness will be at their optimum in approximately forty-five days. Although these dates are very important in order to estimate when the grapes will be ready, we should not forget that the observation of the grapes (especially the appearance of the seeds) and their taste are also crucial in order to determine the day of harvesting.

As a curiosity, I would like to emphasise that there are many different grape varieties in the world. According to the British expert Jancis Robinson, his collaborator and Master of Wine Julia Harding and geneticist Jose Villamouz, there are about 10,000 varieties of grapes. Amongst them, 1,368 are or have been used in winemaking. In Spain, there are 235 registered grape varieties, but recently, thanks to the coordinated efforts of researchers, there have been identified another 300, most of which (210) are totally unknown and do not even have a name.

Regarding white varieties, Chardonnay and Muscat are the first being harvested in Mallorca, followed by Malvasia and Premsal. Pinot Noir is the first red variety to reach maturity, and then come Merlot, Syrah, Monestrell, Petit Verdot, Manto Negro, Callet and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let us hope the weather is good during all the harvest period and the quality of the wines is excellent so that we can keep enjoying them as we presently do.

Good harvest to you all !!!

William Vanrell



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