Picture this: the leaves are changing colors, the smell of fresh grape juice lingers throughout, and Napa Valley bustles with the excitement of harvest! The product of a long, well-balanced growing season, the area is fortunate to have fallen into the category of having a Mediterranean climate. The pristine growing conditions of the Mediterranean climate consisting of warm, dry days and cool nights, accounts for just 2% of the world!
While Napa Valley’s harvest season runs from August to October; harvest time varies around the world depending on the proximity to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Belonging to the Northern hemisphere, Napa Valley joins all of North America, Central America, Europe, and Asia for fall time harvest. The Southern hemisphere consisting of Australia, South America, and Africa celebrate the end of their grape growing seasons between February and April.
Due to various ripening times, there truly isn’t a way to know the exact moment that each vineyard will be harvest-ready. However, when the time comes, grapes are often picked from 3 AM to sunrise while temperatures remain cool. These early harvest mornings ensure the grapes remain in their most hydrated state, better holding their shape and viability for the fermentation process to begin!
Timing Is Key
In Napa Valley, the harvest season is usually kicked off in early August as many of the grapes used in sparkling wine reach their ideal maturity and brightest acidity. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chenin Blanc are usually harvested next, followed closely by Chardonnay.
The transition to the harvest of red grapes is generally led by Pinot Noir in early September, following Verasion. Verasion is this little moment in time when the red grape varietals transition from their original green and white colors, to shades of purple and red. After Verasion occurs, the thinner-skinned grapes like Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Sangiovese reach maturity and are ready for harvest! The infamous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is generally one of the last to leave the vines as its ripening time is much longer due to the development of phenolics and their thicker skin.
The excitement of crushing, pressing, primary tank fermentation, pump-overs, punch downs, secondary malolactic fermentation, racking, bottling, and aging ultimately lead to a finished bottle of wine and many celebrations! Harvest brings much excitement to the Napa Valley as many wineries offer harvest experiences, wine stomps, and parties galore! There truly is no better time to experience all that the famous wine country has to offer!
As the harvest season winds down, the vines transition from their vibrant green shades to captivating hues of orange and yellow. Arguably, this is the most picturesque time to be in the valley. Suddenly, December rolls around and vines turn bare, falling into their dormant rest. However, this is no time to rest for those responsible for maintaining the health of the vines. Just like that, we begin over again in preparation for the exciting season to come!
Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants, and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.