Sorting Grapes

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Feb 9, 2010
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In another thread, I was asked about second growth clusters. I then realized that we very rarely talk about sorting grapes, so I decided to start a thread about it.

For some, sorting is just the process of removing leaves and other "non-grape" matter. For me, it goes a whole lot further.

In the fall, I can have as many as 5 to 8 people sorting grapes and each sorter needs to be trained on what to look for (other than just leaves).

- Sections of cane - just snap them off the clusters. I prefer that these hard/woody "sticks" di not go through the destemer.

- overly dehydrated clusters - at times you find clusters that have shriveled up or rock hard grapes. I like to remove these since they will yield no juice and can only raise the tannins in the resulting wine (and not in a good way).

- Rotten clusters or clusters with more than just a few spots of mold. I can not help but feel that if you would not eat the grapes, then why would you want them in your wine?

- Second growth clusters - What I know of them is this... When a vine forms it's grape clusters, and they have developed to a certain point, vines can and do produce a second wave of clusters. These clusters have less time to ripen and thus tend to make a wine both bitter and "peppery". They are hard to describe. They look perfectly formed, only smaller with seeded berries that are not fully ripe.

Note: Perhaps some else would have more specific info on this topic?

- Clusters that are not fully ripe - Some clusters may have a few ripe berries while also having a number of berries that are still green.

- Harvest equipment - this is no joke. A couple of years back, one of my sorters found a harvest knife left in one of the lugs. If this fell into my destemer, there is no telling the amount of damage that would occur.

I simply tell the sorters that If you would not eat a particular cluster of grapes, then would you want to drink the wine made from it?? I also tell them that if they have to ask if a cluster is good or not, then they should already know the answer.

Each year, I can count on a number of complaints from the sorters that it takes too long and is labor intensive. Each year, after sorting is finished, I have them sip some wine and then ask if sorting was worth it.

How about the rest of you folks? how do you go about sorting and what passes your QC?




I built this sorting table that is used as a chute to move the grapes from the macro bin in the truck to the destemmer that is over the receiving macro bin. Some lots we have filled up a 44 gallon Brute with bad fruit and MOG, some lots just a few leaves. I think this was Mourvèdre, that won gold at the state fair this year.

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Nice thread John. I coach my pickers, but will adopt you list. I try to get them to sort as we pick, and I look over each bin before it goes into the destemmer. i also like the idea of setting aside some examples.
Well I plan on doing my first bigger batch (bigger for me) of all grapes this fall. Enough to yield 15 gal. And already making mental notes on how selective to be and mimicking NorCals chute ingenuity. You guys fuel my drive to constantly continue to progress.
As for the second crop of clusters they are- well a secondary crop of clusters. Vines can grow longer than desired for the canopy of the training system used and are then hedged or skirted (hedge at the top like VSP vines or skirted at the bottom as in Tor or High wire cordon). If done before the vine goes into a ripening stage there can be many laterals formed. These are shoots which grow form the leaf axis of original shoot of the year. This is why vine balance is needed early on in the year. You want adequate crop load early in the year to keep the vine growth in check and help avoid or minimize hedging and skirting. If those summer laterals form they are like the first wave of shoots in the spring in that they can flower and produce clusters. We have a short enough season here that those clusters are easy to spot but warmer regions they may be harder to spot for the pickers.
Are there any methods to destem grapes aside from by hand if using a crusher without a destemming feature? I think I saw someone once suggest a paint mixer drill attachment before.
For about 250 lbs. basically I'm trying to decide what type of crusher to purchase.
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Some use chicken wire size screen and a rake. I made one using the Winemaker mag article. It worked OK using an air ratchet as the drive to do 400-500 lbs. I'd destem and then run through a fruit crusher if I needed to. I finally broke down and bought a crusher destemmer as I'm now up to ~3000 lbs a year.

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