Late Harvest: the art of producing sweet wines

Colheita Tardia: a arte de produzir vinhos doces

Colheita Tardia or Late Harvest is a term widely used in the world of wines to describe a specific production method, in which the grapes are harvested later than usual, that is, they are grapes that are purposefully left on the vines, usually for several weeks after the normal harvest. This technique results in wines with unique and distinct characteristics, which offer a very differentiated sensory experience to connoisseurs.

In fact, late harvesting is a strategy used by winemakers to create sweet, fortified, flavor-rich and complex wines. Generally, grapes destined for this harvest are left on the vines for a longer period, being harvested, for example, in November or December, beyond their normal ripening point. This factor occurs because during this additional time, the grapes accumulate more sugar and, therefore, develop unique characteristics. This process, then, is called the dehydration of the grape berry. In general, the ideal time for the late harvest will depend on the type of grape and the climatic conditions of the region in which they are being grown. Generally, the grapes are left on the vine until they reach the desired characteristics, which can vary depending on the style of wine being produced.

One of the main influences on the late harvest is the action of the fungus “Botrytis cinérea”, known as “noble rot”. In certain climates, especially the most humid ones, this fungus can develop on the grapes, piercing their skins and allowing the water to evaporate, concentrating the sugars and flavors even more. The presence of this fungus is characterized by ensuring greater complexity to wines, with notes of honey, flowers and candied fruit, for example. Due to this factor, wines produced from a late harvest are usually classified as great wines to accompany desserts or tasting wines.

Regarding winemaking methods, the late harvest involves a careful selection of grapes, ensuring that only the best and healthiest are used. After harvesting, the grapes are gently pressed so that all the concentrated sweet juice is extracted and subsequently fermented. During fermentation, it is important that this process is stopped before all the sugar is converted into alcohol, in order to maintain the characteristic sweetness of the wine. In addition to also being good allies of the weather, these wines should be consumed fresh, generally between 10ºC and 12ºC, for a better experience.

Our protagonist in this context is Pacheca Colheita Tardia , a Douro DOC wine produced from the vinification of the Sémillon grape variety harvested in conditions of overripeness and rot. This late white wine, with an exceptionally vibrant color, presents aromas with hints of honey and dried fruits, as well as a slight acidity. In the mouth, the combination of sweetness and acidity are in perfect harmony, making this a true late Douro nectar!

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Late harvesting is, therefore, a careful and meticulous practice, which requires knowledge and experience from winemakers to achieve the best results. Having the opportunity to enjoy a wine harvested late is to discover a unique process that offers a great balance between sweetness, acidity and complexity of flavors, making it, in fact, a perfect choice for special moments and even better when harmonized with exquisite desserts.

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