Owen Bird, Enotria Group Winemaker, sends us this interesting missive from a broiling hot Sicily:
"It is with great pleasure that I can announce commencement of night harvest operations at Settesoli.
"Flagged up 3 years ago as a required step in quality production persistent nagging has finally borne fruit. I take my hat off to Production Winemaker Mimmo De Gregorio and Agronomist Fillipo Buttafuoco for pushing this through and working around the clock.
"After the second night of this the results confirmed what we all know about machine harvested fruit. Last night we went with 13 harvesters in action. They are all controlled by GPS and you can monitor them in real time as to where the machine is and what they are doing."
"Night Harvest begins at 01:00 and runs to 05:00. First grapes arriving 02:00ish. This allows processing and presses ready to go again for when day fruit kicks in just after 08:00.
"Co-operative members concerns about loss of intact berries and too much MOG (material other than grape) arriving have been demonstrated as unfounded, who have been working forever with machine harvested fruit know.. Some immediate advantages:
* getting grapes to press faster and keeping fruit fresh. No more delays in unloading grapes..it's a drive up and dump. 20 minutes from field to press for some Savy Blanc.
* participating farmers are getting their crop in virtually immediately and not spending the day sitting in line waiting for turn to empty a load.
*grapes considerably cooler (grapes arriving 21 deg rather than 35+). Immediate benefit in greener juice.
*spreading of heating loads, chillers can cope better and thus we are getting things down to under 5 degrees faster than before with less use of electricity.
* will allow us to react faster to changes in weather pattern. This will protect things such as Viognier and Fiano much better from heat waves such as last year. Given that the Pinot Grigio is all in and has hit 14.9%, she's a tough year for winemaking.
"Obviously, there are some challenges.
"In order to ensure this is a success we are inspecting each load so as to red card any of the harvesting machine operators who are running too fast through the fields and picking up too much MOG.
"Moving to a night shift is putting a lot of demands upon the cellar and winemaking team. The skeleton crew also means one young guy has to ride his bike from the In weighbridge to the Out weighbridge; providing me with considerable amusement and the lad with a lot of exercise.
"There's a lot of work packing wee plastic bags with vitamin C and PMS in order that the machines operators can avoid oxidation of juice given there is a bit of free run in the trailers. So, the lab looks like one of Pablo Escobar's packing sheds!"