Recently, at a coffee shop in the Napa Valley, a Bottlenotes reporter ran into Doug Shafer, president of Shafer Vineyards. Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, and looking tired, Shafer said he’d just finished harvesting 700 tons of grapes. Visualize yourself picking a single ton of grapes cluster by cluster, grape berry by grape berry. Tired yet?
So, how much wine will all those tons produce?
A ton of grapes usually makes about 60 cases, or 720 bottles, of wine. About is an important word because different grape varieties yield different amounts of juice. In addition, vineyards also play a role, since the better the vineyard, the more likely it is to have vines with small berries. For their part, small berries have less juice than large berries, since with small berries there is a correspondingly higher ratio of skins, stalks, and stems to juice.
And how small can grape berries be? In a top vineyard in a cool climate like Germany’s Mosel region, a berry might be the size of a lentil. In the Napa Valley, top cabernet sauvignon grapes are the size of small blueberries.
Finally, the amount of juice obtained (and ultimately the amount of wine) also depends on how firmly the grapes are pressed. The best estates barely press their grapes at all. Much of the juice is simply “free run,” flowing naturally from the fruit after the skins are broken.
One last fact: a fast California harvest worker can generally pick 2 to 3 tons of grapes a day.