Saturday, September 4, 2010

Emergency Harvest!

Yesterday, I was remembering Aesop's fable about the fox and the grapes and wondering if Boots, our visiting fox, had been the cause of the denuded clusters I found in the middle of two rows of our white grapes. But that seemed preposterous, foxes eat voles and lizards and other small wriggly things.

I was scratching my head about it, looking up the row of what I have deduced are Malvasia, one of the four grapes Giovanni told me were planted in my vineyard, and the ones that should ripen first, when this guy flew by.

It was a European hooded crow and he had a lucent green orb about the size of an olive in his beak. It wasn't an olive.

Grabbing some used DVDs to hang in the vineyard (their flash is said to keep crows away), I went out to walk the rows. I found even more missing grapes than yesterday. One out of every 10 clusters was down to bare stem, or almost. Then I remembered a home winemakers maxim: When do you harvest your grapes? Answer: When the birds are eating them. They know exactly when they are ripe.

Yikes! Grabbing my spectrometer, I plucked random grapes and measured their sugar content. Double yikes! At 22 to 25 Brix, they were already overripe for white grapes (19 to 21 is ideal). I checked acid and found that they were not 3.1 to 3.3 pH range one wants, but had dropped much of the acid essential to making a lively wine. Then I heard the crows cat-calling from the tree nearby.

Luckily, yesterday, I had bought some grape harvesting shears. They are designed to carefully snip the stem and to pluck out bad or green grapes without puncturing good ones. I grabbed one of the cassettes I also bought and went to work picking only the best bunches. Unfortunately, crows like only grapes that don't have oidio. Still more clusters went onto the ground, but by the time I was done with the row and a half of confirmed Malvasia around lunch time, I had harvested almost 2 cassettes worth, maybe 70 pounds. The crows would get no more.

Now what? It's not enough grape to make much wine (about 4 or 5 bottles). Not to worry. I already had a plan. Because I'd already guessed that these vines were early ripening Malvasia, and that they wouldn't make much wine, I had decided to do an old trick invented, so the oenological lore goes, right here in Tuscany. I had to work fast so the grapes wouldn't be damaged. But more on that in the next blog.

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