Why are grapes harvested in bins instead of in a big truck bed?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why are grapes harvested in bins instead of in a big truck bed?

—Kristie, United States

Dear Kristie,

Some grapes are harvested mechanically, and mechanical harvesters have gotten pretty good! But many if not most of the best wines in the world are made from grapes that were harvested by hand.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of harvesting grapes by hand, you’re going to want them to be treated as gently as possible from vine to vat. From the vine they usually go into a hand-held plastic bin or basket, and from those they’re usually deposited into half-ton plastic bins which are then trucked to the winery. Holding about 1,000 pounds of grapes, those MacroBins are pretty large, but not so big that the grapes at the bottom get prematurely crushed under the weight of the grapes on top of them.

If you’ve ever been to a winery, you’ve probably seen those large plastic grape bins. Made from high-density, food-grade plastic which is resistant to pathogens and mold, they’re easy to forklift around, they’re stackable and they’re easy to clean. And if all the tanks and barrels are full because of a heavy or fast harvest, the bins can even be used as fermenting tanks. They have myriad other uses too: They can be used to store and transport leftover winemaking pomace, as a sanitization station for tools and boots, or even to shield the sun or wind. You could probably build a really awesome fort with them too.

—Dr. Vinny

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