GRAPESAnd so it begins, another harvest when fermenting grapes fills the air, reminding us that we live an agrarian life, and that just outside our door are hillsides ribbed in vineyards.

Last week Mumm Napa Winery began picking grapes for its bubbly, with other sparkling wine houses following suit.

Here’s a quick-hit primer of sorts to help you step into the harvest experience while you read about it in the headlines.

  • The Grape Pick Roll Out

Sparkling wine grapes are the first out of the gate – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. These grapes are picked the earliest of all the varietals because they are best for bubbly when they have brighter acid, as opposed to riper flavors. Next in line are white wines, followed by red wines.

  • From Vineyard to Cellar

This is the time of year when you appreciate lofty winemakers for their duality of also being rustic farmers. The first step of winemaking is truly grooming grapes in the vineyard with all these considerations and more: site, climate, sun exposure, soils, drainage, and trellis systems. Pinpointing the pick is one of the most crucial decisions during harvest. It’s based on ripeness, measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels. Of course some winemakers take a less scientific approach and simply taste the grapes.

  • Fermentation in the Cellar

Fermentation is the bewitching process of turning sugar from the grapes into alcohol. What carries out the fermentation are yeasts – and there are two types. Ambient yeasts are present in the air of wine cellars, and some winemakers like to let fermentation unfold naturally due to some of the great flavors this process imparts. Meanwhile others prefer cultured yeasts because they are easier to control.

As we move through the ritual of harvest, Boost Your Wine IQ will offer more segments so you can revel in the season. We live in a very unique corner of the world, and every year we’re reminded of that as we collectively celebrate the coming out party of the grape.

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