August in Florida signals the start of grape harvesting. Vineyards through the south begin the task of picking the ripe crop off the vines, crushing then pressing the skins and fermenting the juice.
After years of harvesting vineyards by hand, I have come to appreciate my 1970 grape harvester a Chism-Ryder as a spectacular invention in agriculture.
As the old saying goes, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” That is now the case in agriculture with labor in short supply.
Nationwide, ninety percent of all wine grapes are machine harvested. In the early 1950’s, throughout America and especially California, labor was in short supply due to the outbreak of World War II and the Korean War. Primitive harvesting machines mangled vines and grapes. Grape skins were broken, and vines suffered damage by the violent beating and shaking. Inevitably, sticks, leaves and vines ended up in the bin. As time went on, machines improved and progressed to become self-propelled. Many harvesters feature fans that create air turbulence that cleans the vines gently. Some machines are equipped with destemmers that remove extra particulates on the grape bunches and can harvest at a rate of 2 acres per hour. Today, new harvesters can tap out around $406,000. It believed that one harvester equals the work force of 30 hands. This efficient machine allows harvesting 24 hours/day from vine to tank within the hour. Which improves wine quality and freshness. New brands include Braud (New Holland), Oxbo, Pellenc, Volentieri, Gregoire, and Spectrum. Fortunately, used equipment is also readily available.
Grape Harvesting video (click on link)
What was once a 2-week harvest endeavor in rain, hurricanes in the intense Florida heat, is now a 6-hour window of mechanical harvest …………….and Autumn arrives in Florida.
Mechanics of a Grape Harvester
The Grape harvesters works by straddling the vine over the top and insert finger-like probes that vibrate gently to release grapes from the vine onto a belt that carries them on a trough up and out a shoot that transports them into a grape bin that is traveling alongside the machine by a tractor.
Resources for growing Muscadine Grapes: