Lanzarote Grape Harvest (La Vendimia)
Harvest time is always a great time to be around the wineries; you feel the magic and energy at the very beginning of the winemaking process. The team here love to get involved with the harvest each year with some of the artisan producers on the Island.
The time to harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acidity and tannin levels, with winemakers basing their decision to pick, based on the style of wine they wish to produce. Sun and heat are obviously massive factors in the ripening process, and given this, Lanzarote boasts the first harvest in Europe. Often our harvest has finished by the time other European regions have started. Harvest in Lanzarote runs from mid-July some years through to September, depending on the grape variety and style of wine. The most widely grown grape variety is Malvasía Volcánica by quite a long way uaually making up around 70% of production.
Here in Lanzarote harvesting the grapes is done manually, it is a rule set by the Denominacion de Origen. This is due to several factors: the terrain, growing vines in pits, which limits access for heavy machinery but most importantly hand collection ensures quality. It is incredibly hard work, walking and carrying baskets of grapes across impassable vineyards in the hottest months of the year.
The grapes are picked from underneath the vines and placed into small baskets, ensuring they can be piled up without adding any pressure or damage to the grapes at the bottom. Each basket holds around 20kg and has air vents, so the grapes are kept in a breathable storage until they arrive to the winery and the wine making process starts. Harvest typically can be seen at first light when the grapes are at their coolest.
In 2020, the total harvest on the Island came in at 1,354,000 kilos. This is a fall of about 50% on 2019’s harvest of 2.8 million kilos. While the record on the Island was in 2018 which weighed in at 4 million Kg. Local viticulture has a big influence on the Island’s culture and tradition. Lanzarote has just under 2,000 registered viticulturists, out of a population of approximately 150,000. Many sell to large wineries on the Island as well as making a small quantity of wine for the family at home. When the grapes are sold to the larger wineries, this is directed, analysed and controlled by the winery and with some bodegas buying from up to 300 individual farmers, it presents a massive logistical challenge every year.
Every year presents a new surprise and tells a tale of the year, and 2021’s harvest will be no different. We can´t wait!