Every morning we wake up at a certain time on a certain day and we go about our routines. You probably have multiple clocks, from one hanging on the wall to your stove, your phone and on your wrist.
But it hasn’t always been this way. For the majority of human history, people moved to the rhythms of life. We lived on solar time, when noon was the moment the sun was directly overhead. Even in medieval times, perhaps there was one clock in the town center, but few paid attention to the actual hour of the day.
However, on October 6, 1783, Benjamin Hanks patented the self-winding clock, which would soon revolutionize every aspect of life by synchronizing the world.
Finally, humans could coordinate, and by 1878, we had established time zones and the world was united like never before.
So much has changed over time, yet grapes could care less about the established rules and human coordination.
Though technologies have changed and we’re now more in sync than ever before, we are still at the mercy of a grape’s schedule and not the other way around. And each year is different, depending on conditions that humans cannot control.
This is never more apparent than right now, as the Northern Hemisphere is in the harvest season, which can range anywhere from August through October, depending on the grapes’ maturation and weather conditions.
In an ideal world, the winegrower has the freedom to harvest when the grapes have reached full ripeness, that beautiful bliss between phenolic maturation and the right balance between sugar and acidity. But weather, the threat of rain or extreme temperatures, often dictate when the winegrowers will pick.
This is why much of the commercial wine world has turned to machine harvesting, ready to pick when the time is right. But premium wines need skilled hand-pickers, so having a proper workforce at the right time is essential, and expensive…and they will work according to the grapes, not any other clock.
But you get what you pay for.
Hand-picked grapes mean an initial selection of quality. Typically workers will go out early in the morning to pick in cooler temperatures to ensure the best preservation of aroma and flavor. They will pick in small bins to avoid crushing the bunches and subjecting the fruit to unwanted bacterial growth.
From there the grapes will be transported as quickly as possible to the cellar and the winemaker will go forth as they see fit.
The world will undoubtedly continue to advance, but one thing will remain, a grape will always follow its internal clock.