Posted by Brian Loring
One of the most important decisions a winemaker has to make is when to pick. In addition to the matter of wine style, there are lots of other issues to consider. Things like weather, vine condition, mold pressure, etc., make obtaining perfect ripeness no trivial matter. But the biggest obstacle is trying to take representative samples at a vineyard to help you make your decision.
I know it sounds easy. Go out to the vineyard and take a sample. That is until you look out across a couple of acres of vines. The terrain is rarely ever flat, and it often has hills and swales where the fruit ripeness will vary. So how do you pick a representative sample without picking all the fruit?
There are as many answers as there are winemakers and growers. Some people like to select individual berries. The theory is that they get samples from a greater number of clusters that way. Other people collect a number of whole clusters. Here the idea is that since the individual berries on a cluster are themselves different, taking whole clusters lets you account for that randomness. In either case, the bigger issue is how to select clusters so that your sample depicts the true state of the vineyard.
In the following video, Peter Cargasacchi shares his approach to sampling a vineyard. Since we learned at the feet of this vineyard master, we follow his teachings when we sample elsewhere. The process back at our winery is fairly standard and not as prone to error. But our results are only as good as the samples we take. That’s why we often share sampling data with other wineries. It offers each of us a cross-check mechanism to help ensure we’re working with good information.
Smari Asmundsson — Petaluma, CA. — October 13, 2008 8:13pm ET
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