Wine Grape Harvest in New Mexico

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018
harvesting grapes for different types of wine

Wine grapes are not native to New Mexico. They were brought to the state in the 1600’s by Monks needing wine for Catholic ceremonies. They grew well, but endured a difficult journey through rough winters, Pueblo revolts, Prohibition and major flooding, essentially demolishing wine making in the region. A resurgence occurred in the 1970’s and now 55 vineyards call New Mexico home.

Wine Grape Harvest Time

In general August, September and October mark prime time for the annual grape harvest for most wineries in Europe and North America. Most of New Mexico starts in August.

Order of Grape Harvest

Grapes meant to be used in sparkling wine are harvested earliest of all. Whites like Chardonnay and Riesling are harvested next. Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec come in next. Finally, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other robust reds like Syrah are harvested.

Grape Harvesting Options

Traditional hand-harvesting and mechanical harvesting are the two routes that a winery can take to get the grapes off the vine and ready for crush. Hand-harvesting affords more precise selection and does a better job of protecting the grape’s juice content from oxidation due to damaged skins.

Mechanical harvesters allow for a more efficient, often cost-effective, process and are well-suited for large vineyards that lay on a flat patch of earth. Heart of the Desert uses a 12-foot tall Mechanical Harvester that straddles the row of vines, removing the grapes from the vines with speed and efficiency.

When to Harvest

Wine makers may test grape juice in a lab to check pH and Brix (a measurement of sugar) to help them determine how ripe the grapes are. They’ll also head into the vineyards regularly to taste and examine the grapes in the weeks leading up to harvest.

They’re gauging the intensity and character of flavors and the quality of the tannins. They’ll look at skin thickness, berry texture, seed color and texture and whether the stems have turned from green to brown. Ultimately, wine growers are seeking a good balance between the sugars, acidity, tannins and flavor compounds.

A series of warm days can speed up harvest because ripening happens fast in hot weather. Cooler temperatures can delay harvest. Ultimately, it’s the flavor profile of the grape that determines pick date.

The vineyard needs to get the grapes to the crusher, from the vine, as quickly as possible. Great pains are taken to escalate the process, while keeping the grapes from becoming too warm during the transport from vineyard to the crusher. At Heart of the Desert, due to the hot and arid summer conditions in Southern New Mexico, grapes are harvested at night, when the temperature is at its coolest.

All grapes are crushed separately and processed differently based on the wine makers specifications. Sweet wines often make their way to the bottle by the end of the year produced, with other wines showing up throughout the following year and some maybe even five or more years later.

About Heart of the Desert:

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.