The difference it makes and why we do it
The vineyard team has been working their way through the vines this past month, carefully selecting each bunch by hand. It’s been a beautiful reminder, as we look down at their haul at the end of each day, just how vital hand harvesting is to us here at Lowe.
Hand harvesting vs. machine harvesting
Hand harvesting is exactly what it sounds like – harvesting grapes by hand, rather than using machinery. It’s a selective, more resource-intensive, way to ensure you’re picking the best grapes off the vines and not damaging the bunches. It also allows you to leave the unripe, damaged, or unhealthy bunches in the vineyard, which ensures less risk of disease or need for intervention in the winemaking stage.
On the other end of the spectrum, machine harvesting is non-selective. In this process, large tractors straddle the grapevines, shaking them with what’s called a beater rod to allow the grape bunches to disconnect from the vine. While this ensures more efficiency and the ability to harvest large areas of vines quickly, you collect the bad grapes with the good and damage many of the bunches in the process, which is then reflected in the winery.
Harvesting at Lowe
As a biodynamic and organic vineyard, grape health and quality are always our top priorities – it’s what we spend the entire year preparing for! So, when it comes time to harvest, we want to ensure that the same focus on health and quality makes it from the vines into the winery.
We pick grapes early in the morning when it’s cool and in alignment with the biodynamic calendar. The combination of the two ensures that the fruit retains its freshness longer, which might seem like a small detail, but it will have a big impact on the final product in the winery! Having our winery steps away from our vines also plays a big role. As we aim to harvest the fruit while it’s cool, the smaller the distance the grapes have to travel once picked, the better chance we have at retaining that freshness all the way into the winery.
Our small team works tirelessly during those early morning hours in Autumn, hand-selecting the best fruit for the wine that David is preparing for that day. And while employing pickers to do the job might cost us 4x what a machine costs, after 45 years in the business David has seen the results time and time again – hand harvesting allows us to make the best quality wine we possibly can.