Thursday, June 09, 2005

Last word on hang time, for now anyway...

Grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer, who spearheaded the seminar, urged fellow growers to advocate for harvesting more tonnage per acre when negotiating their contracts with wineries.

Winiarksi and others said Beckstoffer was off-point. "It was out of the blue," said Winiarski. "That was completely unrelated to hang time."
[May 14 link]

True, that point is essentially unrelated.

What that comment implies is that the issue was raised solely to use as a foil in getting more money from the wineries...and it was after the March Hang-Time seminar where that claim (which Beckstoffer had primarily voiced) of the vines being harmed by leaving the grapes on for too long was largely shot down. Among those refuting that idea was…
[Nick] Dokoozlian does not believe a long hang time affects the vines as sugar accumulates in the root system, even if the grapes aren't harvested. He cites experience with unharvested Chardonnay vines in the Southern San Joaquin Valley that went without picking for three years due to low demand. The vines were pruned each year during dormancy, but at the end of the time, these vines produced the same quality and yield as adjoining vines that had been harvested.

[BTW, Nick works for E&J Gallo as their VP of Viticulture, and used to be a professor @ UC Davis. They have quite large vineyard holdings in California, and I'm sure are well informed of whether this is an issue or not. Conspiracy theorists (read as 'anti-globalists') may point out here that as a large winery concern, Gallo may want to hide that information from the public. Yeah, that and the short grey ET's were behind the Kennedy assasination...]

So, it seemed like it was time to abandon the charge that leaving the fruit on the vine longer somehow harmed the longevity of the vine or it's overall health. The return to the call for more tonnage when (re-)negotiating contracts demonstrates what the discussion really is about: the perception (perhaps reality) that they may be getting screwed for 5~15% of their potential income through dehydration. So instead they want to increase the total tons to make up for that practice.

Unfortunately, the hang time issue is being used to whip things up in the press. It's only worked as a polarizer and distracted both sides from the real issues. The growers have been at a disadvantage for the past few years with the down turn in the wine market, as wineries broke contracts, dropped their prices per ton, etc. I can't really fault them for feeling the pressures, but they already had collective bargaining associations in the various growers groups, and frankly, that's where the debate should have stayed. Taking the issue public was, perhaps, not the best idea, although it has allowed for debate about some other issues -relevant or not .

November 10th is the date set for the 3rd Hang Time seminar. Can’t wait to see this tempest-in-a-teacup go yet another round…(yawn)...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has there been any discussion of setting a contract based on BRIX? If the buyer then wants to wait to harvest, and allow the BIRX to climb above the agreed levels, the price per ton would increase by one percentage point per BRIX unit?

June 09, 2005 12:38 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

The 'standard' type of contracts generally have provisions for some minimum and maximum sugar levels, as well as acids and pH. However, once those minimums are hit growers are anxious to get the crop out of the vineyard (and avoid any adverse weather or dehydration).

Usually it's the wineries which then decide the date of the harvest, as they need to make sure they have the tanks, presses and manpower to process the fruit. And they do this in conjunction with the growers.

You're right, to be fair to both sides they should have some language which allows for 'exceptions' or extra time beyond that needed for just basic maturity to offset the dehydration issue.


June 09, 2005 7:01 PM  

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