© Quinta de la rosa 2013
TIME OF HARVEST
"My most important decision I have to make every year is when to start harvesting" - Jorge Moreira, Winemaker.
Jorge is in the vineyards all year round and believes excellent wines start in the vineyard with quality grapes. After working at La Rosa for over ten years, he knows each vineyard in depth, its history and patterns of growth. During harvest, Jorge continually tastes and feels the grapes to monitor the maturity of the flavours, tannins and colour of the developing fruit. Using his expertise, backed up by analyses of the grapes sugar and acidity levels, we are able to pick the grapes at their optimum stage of maturity. Jorge can then create the complex, structured, rich and velvety wines and ports characteristic of La Rosa.
In the weeks running up to harvest, Jorge and Nuno, our viticulturist, continually assess each vineyard by tasting the grapes and observing the vines and when it is felt that ripeness is approaching a random sample is taken. To achieve a good estimate of fruit maturity, grape berries are taken from randomly selected vines, from shaded and exposed locations as well as from opposite sides of the vine rows.
The sample of grape berries is then analysed in our laboratory and measurements of pH, titratable acidity and sugar content are taken. Normally, a reading of 13% Probable Alcohol or 13.5º Beaume (25.5º Brix) and a pH of 3.6-3.7 indicates the grapes have reached the necessary maturity and are ready to be picked. However, depending on the grape variety, this reading will vary and maturity will be reached at slightly different sugar and pH levels. The condition of the grapes and stalks is also considered, as well as the ripeness of the seeds, to ensure the grapes are picked when optimum. The final decision as to when to start picking will also be influenced by the aspect, altitude and the weather conditions.
At La Rosa harvest normally commences in early to mid September and will last approximately four to six weeks. The white grape varieties are usually picked first followed by the red grapes for our red wines and then the grapes for our ports. As we are a small quinta, we are able to fine tune the picking of the fruit so that we only harvest grapes when they are at their optimum. This means the vintage may stop and then re-start a few days later depending on how the grapes are maturing. Larger quintas are more process driven so are unable to be so selective in their picking.
METHOD OF HARVESTING
At La Rosa we hand pick all our grapes which allows us to be selective. Our pickers are trained to pick only the fruit that is healthy leaving any damaged, dessicated or unripe grapes on the vine. Hand-picking is a gentle way to harvest the grapes which ensures us that the grapes arrive at the winery in perfect condition with minimal damage. Mechanical harvesting is not an option due to the steepness of the terrain and we also believe handpicked grapes make superior wines.
Traditionally, it was the women who cut the grape bunches using a knife and then the harvested fruit was placed into a "balde" (bucket). The "baldes" were emptied into large, wicker "cestos" (baskets) which were then carried by the men either to a truck or to the winery.
Today, we use smaller plastic crates instead of wicker baskets which are more hygienic and prevents any grapes getting crushed. The grapes are picked directly into the crates which are then taken to a truck either by tractor, where possible, or by hand. We are fortunate that our vineyards are situated close to our wineries so the grapes don't suffer from "heat stress" during transport.