One of the success keys to producing great wine is to start with the best fruit possible. That makes sense! In a typical vineyard due to microclimatic variations, different flower set times and dissimilar grape and bunch health, not all the fruit is evenly ripe nor healthy for harvesting at the same time.
It is often necessary to both preselect the best bunches during the season and carry out a final fruit selection at harvesting.
The best way to make that final fruit choice is by traditional hand picking or cutting the fruit. A further selection or “triage” can also be carried out prior to de-stemming, crushing and charging the vat at the winery. In this way, the fruit that is not of the highest quality is either discarded or separated into a second grade ferment.
Machine harvesting is now common for larger vineyards and where quality is a lesser concern as the machine will collect all of the grapes regardless of their quality. Hand picking does require more labour to collect the harvest but is the best method of ensuring the highest quality fruit for the ferment. In the making of Sauternes style dessert wines, it is not uncommon for the hand picking teams to make 5 or more passages through the vineyard in order to harvest the grapes at the optimum point.
The higher the quality of the wine, the greater the chance that hand picking is used for harvesting.