Facts About Wine Grape Harvest

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

We are in the middle of grape harvest in Southern New Mexico. We tend to start a little earlier than other places because the summer heat ripens the grapes a bit faster. It’s a great time to talk about harvest!

How do we know when the grapes are ready to harvest?

If we are being very observant, we may notice more bird activity in the vineyard – they are always first in line for sweet fruit. This is Mother Nature’s first hint that the grapes may be ripe.

  • Color of the Grapes – Red grape varieties gradually turn from green to red as they ripen
  • Color of the stems and grape seeds – when they are ripe, they turn brown
  • Other changes to the grapes – they will plump as sugars increase and will be easy to pull from a cluster the riper they become
  • The seeds change – the seeds are easily chewable and turn brown when they are ripe
  • Flavor – ripe grapes are sweet with no hint of bitterness
  • Technology – a refractometer will measure the sugar levels

Why do you always harvest the grapes at night?

In the dead of night, tractor lights flick on and start combing the vineyard for grapes. Harvesting at night saves money, because there is no need to cool grapes before crushing and it ensures a stable sugar level in the grapes, something that fluctuates as the temperature rises. It’s also easier on the workers, than being out in the fields in 100 degree temperatures.

How long does harvest take?

Harvest can take anywhere from a week to a month. There are several variables.

  • Quirks of the vineyard – some rows ripen faster than others depending on their sun exposure altitude, exposure to wind, etc
  • Type of grape – some grapes ripen faster than others
  • Style of wine – Sweet wines need to sit on the vine longer, a rose has to be harvested at just the right time
  • Weather – Rain. Cold. Heat. They all may force a winemaker to harvest for fear of losing the crop

How many grapes does it take to make a bottle of wine?

It takes one cluster of grapes to make one glass of wine. There are approximately 75 – 100 grapes to a cluster (depending on the grape type). There are approximately four clusters to a 750 ml bottle of wine. One vine produces approximately 10 bottles of wine.

How long does it take to turn grapes to wine?

It all depends on the flavor profile of the wine you are making.

  • 1 month – Absolute minimum bottling time required before any wine is ready for tasting.
  • 3 months – Wine will begin to show some character in its flavor.
  • 6 months – Recommended time for many white wines, and almost all reds.
  • 9+ months – Matures the flavor of the wine, bringing out the full spectrum of bold tasting notes while fully allowing the bitterness of the alcohol to subside. Many wine makers like to age dark red wines for extended amounts of time.

We expect to finish harvesting over the next couple of weeks. It’s always crazy over here this time of year, because we go straight from grape harvest to pistachio harvest. Sometimes they even overlap which is completely chaotic. We look forward to finishing up the grapes! The new season of wine usually starts being bottled after the first of the new year and continues throughout the year for the more robust reds.


Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.