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As Grapes Turn Ripe

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

We often mention ripeness of grapes in wine tasting classes and events. When is the ideal harvest time for grapes? Every winery owner has his own set of standards, and there is no rule set in stone. Most large wineries with big annual production determine using the acidity and sugar level of grapes, which is easier to control. Some owners try the grapes themselves to determine whether the tannins have reached the ideal level of maturity.

In most cases, ripeness of tannins is not the same as the ripeness of fruit sugar. When the sugar is sufficient and ripe, it is called ecologically mature, but this does not mean that the tannins on the skins have matured. In fact, it is absolutely possible to still be astringent. This may not be detectable even in laboratory and must be judged by experience and touch. The best Bordeaux or Bourgogne winemakers often spend a long time in the vineyards to observe and taste grapes during harvest seasons to make sure the wines have silky smooth tannins and ripe fruit aromas, although sometimes the fruit aromas become overripe.

I still remember a Bourgogne wine debuted in 2017 that I reviewed the same year. The maturity was ideal, output rose back to normal that year therefore the price became stable as the area gradually recovered from the natural disasters of previous years. After all, Bourgogne’s wine prices have raised so much in the last decade!

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