Serious Sauvignon Blanc – Machine vs Hand Pick?

***wine nerd alert*** This post is a bit geeky, but maybe of interest to some of my mates overseas studying for their MW exams. (I know your pain!). So everyone else, feel free to skip this one and head back to the foodie stuff we usually post.

I read an interesting piece of research today – which confirmed what we and most other producers in the region have long believed – that machine harvesting is beneficial for Sauvignon Blanc aroma characters. I thought I’d post it as an interesting little follow on from CJ’s post yesterday about “serious sauvignon” winemaking.

The research was carried out by Paul Kilmartin and his team at the Wine Science programme within the university of Auckland. Paul and his colleagues looked at the concentrations of different aroma chemicals in hand picked vs machine picked juice, as well as at different stages (ie free run vs pressed juice). In their conclusion they state:

“To obtain a Sauvignon Blanc wine with intense tropical and green characters, machine harvesting of the grapes would be favoured, so long as adequate protection of the juice from oxidation is ensured through the use of adequate sulfite applications, to maintain higher varietal thiol levels.”

The reason for this is that their research showed compounds which make Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc so distinctive – the thiols (3MH and 3MHA) – are more highly concentrated in machine picked juice.

This backs up various trials done by numerous wineries throughout the region – hand picked sauvignon just ain’t so aromatic.

It’s interesting because when people visit the winery and we start to talk about machine harvesting, their faces fall just a little bit. Everyone assumes that hand picked must surely be better. But for Nautilus we machine harvest all our Sauvignon Blanc and hand pick all the other grapes because we think this gives us the best quality wines. End of story. 

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