Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Still wondering about Hang Time?

The debate about the amount of time after ripeness that grapes remain on the vine before picking (aka "hang time") was a much hotter topic last year and the preceding harvest.

But since about August 2005, there hasn't been much coverage of the topic.
November 2005 was to be the third seminar of the Napa Grape Growers Hang Time series, but there hasn't been a word about the results of the seminar, or if it even took place or not.
[See here for the releases]

The reason for putting it on the back-burner?
Probably the larger than normal harvest we've just experienced put a damper on it. Quite a bit of the noise being made was due to the perceived shortchanging of the growers by allowing the fruit to dehydrate a bit before picking. This allowed wineries to pay less for the fruit (which wieghed less), and possibly add water to rehydrate it at the crush pad.

Now practices like this are a serious detriment to the grower-vintner relationship. Growers experience more financial difficulties due to lower returns per acre of fruit, even though their crop levels were the same as in the past. Wineries reaped the rewards by getting more concentrated fruit, and paying less overall. Discussion also centered on the styles of wine which were produced from the fruit, with some lamenting the change from past practices of a lighter wine style.

Anyway, a larger crop (~40% over what was expected just for Chardonnay) decreased the impetus of the discussion, as growers realized more income from the "bonus" tons which were harvested. Afterall, these bonus tons were harvested without any significant increase in their farming costs. With vintners and growers both busy with the super-sized harvest, November was perhaps NOT the best time to have scheduled the seminar (fruit was still being harvested then).

Hopefully there will be some word on this subject - but in the meantime, here are some links to previous posts on hang time...
More on Hang Time 4/18/05
Last word on Hang Time 6/9/05
Heart of the Matter... 7/10/05


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