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April is one of the most important months for the team in Marlborough. Months of carefully tending vines come to fruition with the annual grape harvest.

In Marlborough this year, we began harvesting on 3 March, with hand-harvested Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine, as well as harvesting for our lower alcohol wines. The decision on when to pick is based on the sugar content of the grapes (brix) and for our lower alcohol wines, we have identified blocks of grapes that develop full flavours early in the season when their brix is still low, allowing us to craft wines that are naturally lower in alcohol (because the sugar converts to alcohol so less sugar means less alcohol). By April, Sauvignon Blanc grapes have developed their distinctive tropical, citrus and herbal flavours and the Marlborough team were in full-swing.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes

We machine harvest most of our Sauvignon Blanc grapes. We found through rigorous experimenting that this yields wine that is more vibrant and full of flavour. In part, this is because we we can get the grapes from the vines to the winery much quicker so they retain their freshness. We harvest from sunrise to sunset and sometimes beyond to make sure that we are picking every block of vines at the optimum time.

Harvesting grapes at Brancott Vineyard  Machine harvester with lights on in Brancott Vineyard  Hand-harvesting on Brancott Vineyard

Hand harvesting of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc for our ultra-premium wines also took place throughout April. By 26 April, the only grapes still on the vines were Sauvignon Blanc for our Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Late Harvest wine. These grapes spent another 6 weeks on the vines with sugar levels reaching a brix of around 43 compared with around 22 for our other wines.

Harvest time at Brancott Vineyard