Responding to Vineyard Labor Shortage

Kicker is better grapes and wines, as per UC Davis

Bad link, my friend . . .


Thanks, Larry.
Corrected, KPIX had rotating feature stories.

We all should know by now that mechanical harvesting and vine management has been going on for quite some time, not only here but throughout Europe and in Australia as well. As labor shortages become more and more of a reality, there is no doubt that these will become more commonplace where possible.

As far as I know though, they still cannot actually take full clusters - they generally ‘shake’ the vine and only the grapes themselves are harvested. This works perfectly for some types of grapes and wines but not all for sure.


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I recognize the mechanization has been here for many years. I did not know UCD research shows the grapes are of superior quality attributed to being higher off the ground.

Stated without any support in the article. I would like to understand how they connected grape cluster distance from ground to resulting quality. This thought opens up a lot of questions. Is it more of a line where above is better and below worse or is it more of a sliding scale. If the latter, does it top out or is 20 feet off the ground better than 10 which is better than 3. Not to mention what mechanisms would be behind the change.

Yes, some varieties have the fruit more tightly connected to the stems and also have thinner skins. The other issue is removing the extra stuff you don’t want (leaves, lizards, raisins, bird damage, sometimes moldy grapes). You tend to get more of the unwanted stuff with mechanical harvesting, although also with not careful pickers especially if paid by the ton. But, I’m sure mechanical harvesting continues to improve.

Limits use of whole cluster fermentation, though.


I was talking to a well known Portuguese winemaker a couple of years ago. They were complaining about the lack of pickers. No one wanted to pick anymore, or if they did, on their own schedule. The era of Eastern European pickers is over. Many are using Southeast Asia labor. They get contracted out as a unit of workers. “Very reliable” is the reputation.

Maybe they are referring to Central Valley fruit where its 105 degrees for hours on end. Perhaps the tall vines aren’t as adversely affected from refracted heat from the baking hot ground? The tall vine height may cool things down a bit? I notice vine height in the Central Valley is much taller than say Russian River or Oakville…Kind of an odd finding on their part.

+1 radiant heat
Central Valley application (for now)