Wine Monopole

While we are waiting for full moon to come and to celebrate the forthcoming Mid-Autumn festival with sweet white wines and moon-cakes, many winemakers are getting ready (some even nervous) about their harvest. September (and early October) is usually the busiest, and most crucial, time of the year.

Typically in Burgundy, harvest takes place between 90-100 days after flowering, i.e. around mid-September. Yet, it is never easy to make the call when to harvest. When the weather is good, vine growers would want to wait, even just a day or two, so that the crops can achieve best ripeness level. If growers harvest by hands, they would need to hire the pickers in advance, provide foods and beds, and train them for the big day. However, all the planning can go down the drain as weather changes suddenly and rainstorm appears over the vineyards.

Why avoid the Full Moon then? Is it just a superstition? Since the beginning of history, human beings have keenly observed moon movement and try to understand the impact of moon energy, particularly the impact on water. Observations show that in the 48 hours leading up to Full Moon, the moisture content in soil seems to increase. The additional humidity, together with warm conditions, tend to help the growth of fungus on plants. Full Moon often "attracts" rain to come as well. Unwanted water will dilute the juice concentration of grapes. It is unclear how closely winemakers still follow this "superstition", but why take the chance and risk your whole year's work!

For growers practicing biodynamic agriculture, they follow the moon movement even much more closely as they believe the passing of moon in front certain constellations "create" the root, leaf, flower and fruit days - the essential four elements in any plant. They believe on these certain days, some treatments are more appropriate and have better effect than performed on other days. For example, they would do the plant work (pruning, de-budding, etc.) on fruit and flower days. On leaf and root days, they would remove the old vines where a vineyard needs to be replanted.

Some believe these magic days even impact the taste of wines. Clive Coates, MW remarked that "I have found by experience that fruit days are the best for tasting wines; and root days the worst. And I am not the only one: in Britain the supermarket groups and others now only offer their wines for tasting by the media on a fruit day. We know that the wines are harder, more closed in and less charming on a root day."

In fact, some winemakers only bottle their wines on a "fruit" day. Is this superstition? Or there is the unexplained power of nature beyond the knowledge of all of us?

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!


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Written by Wine Monopole — September 16, 2013


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