All vineyard treatments are stopped long before harvest to ensure that residue from pesticides does not get into the wine. During this period, growers sample the grapes in the vineyard regularly to determine when the desired level of ripeness is attained. The grower determines the balance of sugar, acid and phenolic ripeness desired and thus decides picking time. In addition to tasting the grapes to determine ripeness levels and phenolic maturity of the grapes, almost every winemaker also utilizes lab analyses with detailed information on acidity, alcohol, anthocyanins, tannins and polyphenols.
Harvest can be done in most regions either by hand, by pickers cutting individual bunches and laying them in small baskets, or by machine. Hand harvesting is mandatory in some regions such as Champagne.
Although hand harvesting is gentler it is slower and more expensive. Handpicked grapes tend to suffer less damage during the harvest. However, in cases where the harvest needs to be completed quickly, such as threatening weather or rapidly falling acidity due to heat spikes, machine harvest can be preferable.
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