It is always fun to watch the frenzy of the harvest. It is an exciting time for both the vintner and visitor to wine country. The harvest is winding down now in the Napa Valley with only a few vineyards left to harvest. We missed almost all of harvest in Napa this year because we were in Spain on a four-week wine and food adventure.
Fortunately we didn’t miss the harvest in Spain. In the tiny wine town of Cambados we happened to be there on a memorable day in the midst of the AlbariÃ±o grape harvest. What a difference in harvesting methods between Napa and in the Spanish wine region of Rias Braixas. In Napa, the harvesters work at fever pitch, bending, cutting and running to dump their cartons of grapes in the one-ton bins. In Rias Braixas, the workers have a much more relaxed pace. They carefully cut each cluster and place the cluster in a carton. When the carton is filled they leave it on the ground and then begin to fill another carton. Later each carton is placed on a palate and delivered to the winery on small trucks.
In the Rias Braixas wine regions, there is no need for the harvest worker to bend. All the grape clusters are above them. They stand as they work the vines. This wine country is damp and moist because it is only a few miles away from the water inlets of the Atlantic Ocean. The vines are trained so they sit high off the ground. With this trellis method, the grapes can quickly dry off from any wet conditions.
Another harvest difference is what I called the liability factor. In Napa and other California wine regions, visitors are restricted from harms way. Visitors are never allowed near the crush machinery tractors, or the workers. For sure, visitors are directed to stay clear. At the Martin Codax Bodega in Rias Braixas, I walked all around with my camera capturing images of the crush. No one said a word to me. In fact, it seemed that I was welcomed. The lady in the photo was anxious for me to photograph the grape cluster. She wanted me to taste the grapes. She was quite excited about the harvest and what a joy to see this in her face.
The wineries in Spain generally do not have regular visitor hours or tasting rooms. You have to call a couple of days in advance to set up an appointment. But at harvest time, the wineries close their doors to visitors. Every available body in the winery works on the harvest.
One thing we can say is the same, the crush yields some great wines in both Napa and Spain.