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Gathering The Grapes

Although I have described the process already, I will here again
reiterate that the grapes should be thoroughly _ripe_. This does not
simply mean that they are well colored. The Concord generally begins to
color here the 5th of August, and we could gather the majority of our
grapes, of that variety, for market, by the 15th or 20th of that month;
but for wine-making we allow them to hang until the 15th or 20th of
September, and sometimes into October. Thus only do we get the full
amount of sugar and delicacy of aroma which that grape is capable of
developing, as the water evaporates, and the sugar remains; it also
loses nearly all the acidity from its pulp; and the latter, which is so
tough and hard immediately after coloring, nearly all dissolves and
becomes tender. The best evidences of a grape being thoroughly ripe
are: 1st. The stem turns brown, and begins to shrivel; 2nd, the berry
begins to shrivel around the stem; 3d, thin and transparent skin; 4th,
the juice becomes very sweet, and sticks to the finger like honey or
molasses, after handling the grapes for some time.

It is often the case that some bunches ripen much later on the vines.
In such a case, the ripest should be gathered first, and those that are
not fully ripe remain on the vines until mature. They will ripen much
quicker if the ripest bunches have been removed first.

The first implements needed for the gathering are clean wooden and tin
pails and sharp knives, or better still, the small shears spoken of in
a former part of this work. Each gatherer is provided with a pail, or
two may go together, having a pail each, so that one can empty and the
other keep filling during the time. If there are a good many unripe
berries on the bunches, they may be put into a separate pail, and all
that are soft will give an inferior wine. The bunch is cut with as
short a stem as possible, as the stem contains a great deal of acid and
astringency; every unripe or decayed berry is picked out, so that
nothing but perfectly sound, ripe berries remain.

The next implement that we need is a wooden tub or vat, to carry the
grapes to the mill; or the wagon, if the vineyard is any distance from
the cellar. This is made of thin boards, half-inch pine lumber
generally; 3 feet high inside, 10 inches wide at the bottom, 20 inches
wide at the top, being flat on one side, where it is carried on the
back, and bound with thin iron hoops. It is carried by two
leather-straps running over the shoulders, as shown in Fig. 29, and
should contain about eight to ten pails, or a little over two bushels
of grapes. The carrier can pass easily through the rows with it to any
part of the vineyard, and lean it against a post until full. If the
vineyard is close to the cellar or press-house, the grapes can be
carried to it directly; if too far, we must provide a long tub or vat,
to place on the wagon, into which the grapes are emptied. I will here
again repeat that the utmost cleanliness should be observed in _all_
the apparatus; and no tub or vat should be used that is in the least
degree mouldy. Everything should be perfectly sweet and clean, and a
strict supervision kept up, that the laborers do not drop any crumbs of
bread, &c., among the grapes, as this will immediately cause acetous
fermentation. The weather should be dry and fair, and the grapes dry
when gathered.

Next: The Wine-cellar

Previous: Massachusetts White

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