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When is the ideal time to begin harvesting grapes?

How does a grape farmer or winemaker know when it's the ideal time to begin harvest?

The decision to harvest wine grapes is typically made on the basis of sugar and acid concentrations in the grapes. The sugar should be high enough to produce the desired alcohol concentration (fermentation converts the sugar into alcohol) in the wine and the acid must be high enough to maintain the desired tartness. Winemakers are also concerned with varietal character and flavor compounds and often taste the fruit as it develops in the vineyard.

What ancient civilization is said to have had the greatest impact on the development of grape growing and winemaking?

The Romans, more than any other ancient culture, had the biggest impact on growing grapes and making wine. During the Roman era (circa 300 BC to 500 AD) wine was a dietary staple and grape growing, as well as winemaking, was a major element of Roman agriculture. As the Romans expanded their empire into Western Europe, they introduced their grape growing and winemaking methods to their colonies. In fact, virtually all of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe were established by the Romans.

What is carbonic maceration?

Carbonic maceration is a red winemaking process that transforms a small amount of sugar in grapes to ethanol (alcohol) without the intervention of yeasts and without even crushing the grapes. It is typically used to produce light bodied, brightly colored, fruit red wines for early consumption, most famously but by no means exclusively in the making of Beaujolais-style wines.

Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's Wine Press The Wine Wizard, Castoro Cellars 2013 edition.