Especially in sunny regions like Cyprus, the trick to a successful harvest (and resulting amazing wine) is picking grapes at their ideal ripeness, not simply when they taste sweet. Through the weeks leading up to harvest, vintners carefully and continuously test their vineyards and plan the ideal moment to harvest the fruits of their summer’s labor. Wine is all about balance, and winemakers look for the perfect balance between flavor components like sugar, acid, and tannin.

Unlike simple table grapes, wine grapes need more than just sugar to make great wine. It may seem pretty obvious, but in fact, a great deal of care needs to be taken to ensure the grapes are ripe for the particular wine you plan to make. So, what exactly is ripeness in grapes and how do we test for it?

5 tell-tale signs

  1. Color of the grapes: Naturally, red grape varieties will gradually turn from green to red as they ripen. However, experienced winemakers know it could take many weeks, depending on the weather and the grape variety, before true ripeness sets in.
  2. Color of the stems and grape seeds: When ripe the grapes of the red varieties become brown while those of white varieties become golden.
  3. Added hints from grapes: They will plump up as sugars increase, and they will be easy to pull from a cluster the riper they get.
  4. Added hint from grape seeds: Taste a grape and the seeds are easily chew-able when ripe.
  5. Ripe grapes are sweet, with no hint of bitterness in the flesh or seeds. Experienced winemakers will look for the ultimate “varietal” flavors to show through.

Keep in mind

What other concerns do winemakers have when they determine when its time for wine harvest?

  • Quirks of the vineyard: Some rows ripen faster than others, depending on their sun exposure, altitude, exposure to wind, etc.
  • Type of Grape: Some grapes ripen faster than others.
  • Style of wine: If they are looking for terrific acidity, as in a Rosé, winemakers will be carefully watching those pH/TA lab reports.
  • Worker Availability: There may be a shortage of pickers that could delay harvest.
  • The Weather: Mother Nature may force a winemaker to harvest if she is threatening to dump a long period of cold rain, or, if temperatures keep rising and grapes are starting to dry up like raisins.

Cheers to fine wine!

Harvest usually starts in August for lighter wines and runs through September for bolder grapes like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, a perfect harvest takes a full year of work. The experts are confident that this year’s harvest will be splendid, lush and of wonderful quality! At Oenou Yi – Ktima Vassiliades, we are confident that our effort will be obvious in the glass!