The 2022 harvest season was a somewhat taxing harvest year for many. While the end of harvest season can feel physically tiring and draining, it can be a good idea to take a small breather in the cellar and organize one’s thoughts. Taking a few moments to plan can be a helpful strategy in developing a game plan to move forward into the new calendar year and begin the bottling season successfully.
Does this sound a bit daunting? Don’t know where to start?
DG Winemaking has you covered!
Below are four tips for getting the harvest season appropriately wrapped up and organized that anyone can start right now!
Plus, if you want some step-by-step guidance, the Post-Harvest Review, now offered to all blog readers, is available for download. This Production Guide reviews everything season here, and more, to keep the cellar functional and prepared for the up-coming bottling season.
Want access to this Production Guide? Skim to the end of this post to find out more about joining the DGW community and start making changes in your cellar happen!
1. Conduct a Harvest Review
This is an easy annual exercise that can quickly save winemakers and cellar managers a lot of time in the future.
Give your cellar team 30 minutes to sit down and individually write down:
- What went wrong in the cellar during the 2022 harvest season? What were some challenges that were faced?
- What went right during the 2022 harvest season? List some wins for the team.
- What equipment needs repaired or replaced?
- Is there anything else they think needs remembered about this harvest season?
This may seem like an unnecessary task, but these details are quickly forgotten post-harvest.
Reviewing the last harvest season is a quick way to physically jot down details that may have been important, but will otherwise get lost within time. It’s fair to mention that depending on the staffing structure, the head winemaker may not have been aware of specific issues that routinely popped up during the harvest season. The exercise of individually having each employee jot down their experiences is a great way to audit the team and get valuable input that is otherwise missed. Plus, it shows employees that their hard work was not taken for granted.
To take this a step further, this is also a great reflective opportunity to encourage employee suggestions for addressing issues and/or get their input on something that they would like to learn in the year ahead to improve at their job. This is a really nice exercise if you have younger generational employees who often thrive on professional development.
2. Update Production and Analytical Records
Wine analysis and production record organization is almost everyone’s least favorite thing to do!
Having a database for production and analytical records, whether on Excel on through a savvy production software, saves time in the cellar and provides clear, concise information on each wine produced. Keeping track of sulfur dioxide additions/concentrations and wine additive selections is easier in a database than in a notebook filled with lots of written notes.
Isolate some time each day or a few days a week to make this a priority, cutting down the task into smaller, manageable tasks. Or split the work among cellar employees, double checking that all records are complete by a specific end point.
Need help knowing some of the basic information that should be retained for each wine? Check out the DG Winemaking Fermentation Records spreadsheets for a starting point. All DGW Members and Clients have access (find out more, below!).
3. Begin Auditing Winemaking and Laboratory Procedures
While in the groove of managing production records, it is also a great time to start reviewing and updating any standard operating procedures (SOPs) and sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) to make sure they continue to reflect the actual production practices. Also, take a moment to update or add any laboratory protocols (e.g., running and cleaning the pH meter, running a titration) to adequately reflect how equipment is used in the lab.
While this may seem unnecessary, updating the information at the end of harvest season, during a slower time in the cellar, is often a good moment to allocate a bit of time towards this work. Not only will it help save on employee training time in the future, but it is also a good way to stay current on FDA documentation requirements.
Need help writing SOPs and SSOPs? Check out the “Writing SOPs & SSOPs” Training Video available for individual purchase.
4. Finish Necessary Wine Analysis
I recommend a standard list of analyses that each wine should have after primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation (MLF) are complete. This list is easily accessible in the Juice/Wine Analysis Recommendations Production Guide, which provides a printable table identifying which analyses are required at specific time points in production (i.e., pre-fermentation, post-primary fermentation, post-MLF, through wine storage, and pre-bottling).
Plus, if you need help knowing what analytical values are appropriate for various stages in production, you can reference the Wine Analysis Expected Results Production Guide. This Guide provides winemakers with my assessment of what I expect analytically for major chemical indices in still table wines.
For wines that are still completing MLF, or for any late-incoming grapes/fruit that is going through primary fermentation, make sure analytical monitoring procedures are in place and continue through completion. Monitor MLF progression weekly. For all wines that have officially completed their fermentation(s), the post-harvest season is a good time to also go through and double check free and total sulfur dioxide concentrations to ensure levels are appropriate for that wine.
Get Access to What We’re Talking About!
Want to gain access to some of the additional tools mentioned in this blog post?
Monthly DGW Insider memberships are now available or save 5% with an annual membership. If you want to use some of the tools listed above, the DGW Insider could be for you! Click HERE for more information!
DGW Elite memberships offer access to all of the tools included in the DGW Insider membership. DGW Elite also includes twice monthly one-hour group Q&A sessions with Denise. You can bring your winemaking questions to each meeting without paying any additional consulting fees, and get answers from a winemaking expert!