Ask Wine Wizard

Uneven Ripening Of Grapes

TroubleShooting

David Lodge — Smallfield, England asks,
Q

I have an extremely small hobby vineyard of about 30 vines (mixed varieties) and find it hard to get help here in the United Kingdom with either advice or supplies and I do rely heavily on your magazine. I envy you in the States where you seem to have a lot of amateur growers and resources to match. This year the weather has been very unusual, and all fruit growth has been poor. I have some grapes that are now ripe and need to be harvested but others of the same variety in a different part of the vineyard are well behind and not yet ready. Can I pick the ripe ones now and freeze or chill them and wait until the others are ready and crush and process them all together, which may be in three- or four-weeks’ time? Would freezing be better than chilling?

A
Many thanks to you for being a WineMaker magazine reader! We love being a source of helpfulness in the sometimes difficult-to-navigate world that is international small-scale winemaking. Uneven vineyard ripening is indeed a difficult thing to contend with. If one’s vineyard is large enough, it’s easy enough to divide it into “blocks” that ripen right about the same time and provide a convenient amount for winemaking purposes. When you’re dealing with 30 vines that ripen unevenly, I can see the difficulty; I’m going to guess you’ve probably got too much fruit to put into your freezer at once and too little to be able to ferment separately. If you think that your grapes will be ready within a 3–4 week window, you can certainly freeze what I would call a “first batch” or the first wave of grapes to be ready, or as many as you can fit into your freezer. Keep in mind that frozen grape skins will already almost be pre-broken down and might be more difficult to press later on. Grapes can indeed be chilled under refrigeration,
Response by Alison Crowe.