Further Pre-Harvest Cellar Preparations to Consider

By: Denise M. Gardner

Last week, we reviewed scheduling bottling operations and pre-ordering harvest supplies in the month of July in order to open up space in the cellar and save financial resources on free-shipping promotions, respectively: July Pre-Harvest Planning in the Cellar

This week, we’ll review a few extra considerations as the cellar prepares for the up-coming harvest season.

What wine components will you measure in grapes/juice?

At minimum, each incoming lot of grapes or juice should be analyzed for:

  • Brix,
  • pH,
  • titratable acidity (TA), and
  • yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN).

For grapes and juice, refractometers are quick tools that can provide a quick reference for the sugar concentration of grapes and juice.  Once primary fermentation is underway, it is best to switch to hydrometers to measure the drop in sugar concentration, as alcohol can interfere with sugar concentration readings when using a refractometer.

Using a hydrometer to monitor primary fermentation is preferred over the use of a refractometer due to the fact alcohol content interferes with a refractometer’s readings. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

The pre-harvest time period is a good time to ensure that pH meters and all titration supplies are working properly.  Ensure the pH electrode is working properly and that there are plenty of [fresh] calibration standards and buffers to sustain the production through harvest.  For titrations, it is a good idea to replenish sodium hydroxide.

YAN analysis can be accomplished enzymatically or by Formol titration.  Both come with challenges and require some experience and expertise to run efficiently and effectively.  With enzymatic analysis, new enzyme kits are typically required for the current year’s harvest.  Purchasing these kits right before harvest could be a time saver for when fruit arrives. For more information on YAN analysis, please refer to:

Having protocols for each analysis that will be run in-house ready for incoming lab assistants or harvest interns can also save time and energy during the harvest season.

Check chemical expiration dates and re-order supplies where needed.  In July, some suppliers may offer discounts or promotions, like free shipping.

If the winery is able to run analyses like free/total sulfur dioxide by aeration oxidation, volatile acidity by cash still, or Rippers, it may be imperative to update chemicals for the up-and-coming harvest season.  Chemicals like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and Iodine have a limited shelf-life that will not be reliable if purchased the previous year.

If the winery is using a microscope, make sure that the microscope is working properly and not in need of any repairs.  Update the lab’s record books with images of relevant microorganisms that may help lab personnel better identify any problem microflora in juice or wine.  The use of a microscope can be a great tool to assess the quality of incoming fruit or help determine problematic fermentations.

For wineries that distribute samples to certified laboratories, stock up on sample bottles and any supplies that you would need to take representative samples during the harvest season.  Some labs will pre-distribute sample bottles to the winery free of charge.

Stock up on sample bottles before harvest begins to efficiently collect required juice/wine samples that will be shipped to a laboratory. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Bring Quality Control Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) Up-to-Date

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are step-by-step plans that detail a winery’s production steps and/or lab analyses.  The development and integration of SOPs can be time consuming, especially considering it can be challenging to effectively document a winemaker’s communications on production steps.  However, wineries can build SOP policies over time, especially during moments of downtime in the cellar.

The evaluation of production-based prior to harvest can ensure that all employees are aware of production decisions, proper safety practices, and preparation steps for harvest.  Properly trained employees prior to the onset of harvest guarantee a smoother work-flow system and lays out production expectations before crunch time.

For wineries that run analysis in-house, SOPs or protocols can be developed for each analysis and general laboratory practices.  If you need a reference for lab protocols, Enartis USA (Vinquiry) provides a series of examples: http://www.enartis.com/us/tools/wine-analysis

Going through laboratory SOPs with employees prior to harvest can help guarantee training for all employees whose primary focus will be in the lab during harvest.  This may save time and effort during the harvest season when it may not be possible for upper management to train other employees.

When an SOP notebook or database has been developed, each employee should be aware of the SOPs, how to access them, their purpose, and have a general idea on what they include to ensure that production runs smoothly year round.

Visiting the Vineyard

If the winery is contracted with growers, it is a good idea to form an established, working relationship with the growers.  Now is the time, before harvest, to have regular vineyard walk-throughs, evaluate the fruit, and discuss harvest expectations for incoming fruit.  Talk about ripening expectations and taste the berries with growers so that they get a good sense for the sensory evaluation of the fruit.

Berry sensory analysis developed by the L’Institut Coopertif du Vin (ICV) in France can be a powerful learning tool for both growers and vintners, and could be a consideration for commercial wineries.

Additional Resources

“Harvest Preparation” by Dr. Muli Dharmadhikari http://www.extension.iastate.edu/NR/rdonlyres/173729E4-C734-486A-AD16-778678B3E1CF/73932/HarvestPreparation.pdf

“Monitoring the winemaking process from grapes to wine: techniques and concepts” by Patrick Iland, Nick Bruer, Andrew Ewart, Andrew Markides, and John Sitters.  ISBN: 978-0-9581605-6-8

“Winemaking Problems Solved,” Edited by Christian E. Butzke.  ISBN: 978-1-4398-3416-9

Lab Analysis Protocols by Enartis USA: http://www.enartis.com/us/tools/wine-analysis

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2 responses to “Further Pre-Harvest Cellar Preparations to Consider”

  1. info says :

    Denise, Thank you for this particularly helpful issue. Do you happen to know where we could find SOP’s to give us an example of the detail and format we could use? Any document would be beneficial. Thank you.

    On Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 9:50 AM, ‘Wine & Grapes U.’ via info wrote:

    > psuenology posted: “By: Denise M. Gardner Last week, we reviewed > scheduling bottling operations and pre-ordering harvest supplies in the > month of July in order to open up space in the cellar and save financial > resources on free-shipping promotions, respectively: July Pre-” >

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