Harvest 2016 Pietershof

Countdown to harvest in the North

It’s been quite a while since my last update on Pietershof. Let me get you up to speed while rushing through the past summer months.

Remember the devastating spring frost? While winegrowers in other parts of Europe have forecasted less harvest (the estimate ranges from 20% to a staggering 70% in parts of Bordeaux), at Pietershof they seem to have come out of the frost in pretty good shape with most likely no significant crop loss.

Flowering and fruit set
The flowering period started ok in May, this is the stage where the pollination and fertilization of the grape vine takes place, to develop the grape berries. You know, birds and bees stuff. Actually, several bee hives were placed at Pietershof to support the vineyard’s biodiversity .

What you don’t want in this period is lots of rain or wind, too cold or too warm. Otherwise, flower pollination will lag behind meaning less grapes at harvest time.

Flowering was followed straight away by the period of fruit set, when flowers turn into berries. This has been excellent at Pietershof. The downside? Good flowering leads to compact bunches of berries. If the weather is warm and humid, wind cannot blow through these compact clusters and botrytis will appear. This is exactly what happened in warm, rainy August.

And yes, divine sweet wines like Sauternes profit from Botrytis, but that is the so-called noble rot. The fungus in Pietershof is grey rot and lethal in any vineyard if left unattended.

The only thing left to do, is getting rid of the bunches with visible rot. Alas not a one-time effort, but something that needs to be done continously if the weather stays damp but relatively warm. Some varieties seem to be more susceptible than others, like Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Auxerrois, which could lead up to a bucket full rotten grapes per row.

Overall, the grapes look really great. The yield might be a bit less in the end, but the quality of the fruit looks very promising.

Harvest started early this year in Southern Europe, forced by impressive heat waves that pushed temperatures over 40 degrees. Franciacorta estates near Lake Iseo were already out picking in early August to avoid overripe grapes with insufficient acidity for their excellent sparkling wines. Further North, several domaines in the German Mosel and south of Burgundy have recently begun harvesting, so it is a matter of weeks before Belgium and Holland will start!

This means daily check ups in the vineyard, tasting the grapes, measuring sugar content and ripeness, preparing the cellar and keeping the grape pickers on standby. At Pietershof, the target is now set at the last weekend of September. But Mother Nature always has the final say…

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