The 5 keys to a late harvest that doesn’t happen every year

The late harvest of Gran a Gran will allow us to produce a raisined and vegan Rías Baixas

In the middle of October, we carry out a late harvest to collect raisined grapes and bunches blessed by the miracle of noble rot with which to make Gran a Gran

When we read “rottenness,” we inevitably think of images that are not very attractive or suggestive. Therefore, if we talk about noble rottenness, it probably seems we are enunciating an oxymoron. However, at Pazo Baión, this oxymoron becomes a reality thanks to a very special fungus: Botrytis cinerea.

Under extraordinary weather conditions that occur during the beginning of autumn, Botrytis noble or noble rot can develop in our grapes. This process concentrates the sugar in the grapes and alters their metabolism, which has a direct impact on the aromas and composition of these grapes. Therefore, we are not discussing a phenomenon detrimental to the grapes, but quite the opposite. It is a fascinating natural process that does not occur every year and involves carrying out a meticulous late harvest. The result? The perfect grapes to make a raisined Albariño with unique characteristics, Pazo Baión Gran a Gran.

Want to know more about Gran a Gran’s late harvest and noble rot? We have called on the extensive knowledge of Andrea Obenza, winemaker at Pazo Baión, to tell you the 5 keys to a late harvest that doesn’t happen every year and that has taken place over the past few weeks.

The noble rot and the climatic conditions

How does noble rot develop in the grapes? Andrea Obenza focuses on climatic conditions. Why? For noble Botrytis to grow, the following conditions must be present:

  • Humidity during the night and early morning hours.
  • High, dry temperatures throughout the day.

When do these climatic conditions occur? During the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, before the rains typical of this season arrive.

Obenza stresses that if these conditions are met, the fungus can develop into its exciting version, the Botryis noble. This is why it is only some years that this late harvest can be carried out to collect an exceptional raw material. Sometimes, the autumn rains come early and do not allow this optimal development of the fungus, causing acid Botrytis to develop directly instead of noble Botrytis, which would mean losing the harvest.

After all, it must be borne in mind that a process as complex as noble rot is also very delicate, which is why the climatic conditions that make it possible are exact and demanding.

La Entrada, the ideal plot for Botrytis noble rot to develop

The Pazo Baión vineyards comprise nine parcels of land with notable differences in important aspects such as altitude, temperatures and land lay. One of these plots is the Entrada, located in the upper-middle part of the property, with an extension of just over one hectare and made up of 830 plants.

Why are we talking about this particular plot? The late harvest to make Gran a Gran is carried out in this plot, which is excluded from the conventional harvest about three weeks earlier. Andrea Obenza points out that this decision was taken because the necessary conditions for noble rot to develop are best met in this plot. That is to say, humidity at night, but also, in the winemaker’s words, “good ventilation to help the bunches to be dry” and excellent temperatures, which, in 2023, have been particularly good.

This year, it has been possible to carry out this late harvest because the weather conditions have allowed the grapes from this plot to develop the noble Botrytis optimally, without rain or low temperatures spoiling the process.

What are the grapes harvested during this late harvest like?

Regarding the characteristics of the grapes at the time of the late harvest, Obenza points out that the professionals at Pazo Baión encounter three different situations:

  • Grapes with “over-ripeness.” In other words, they have a higher sugar content due to the high temperatures recorded at the end of September and beginning of October, which have caused the grapes to continue ripening.
  • Grapes with Botrytis noble in which “the coloring turns to a reddish-maroon color, the skin gradually becomes permeable, and their aromas show a notable incidence due to the presence of the fungus.”
  • Raisined grapes. These grapes have been affected by Botrytis, which has caused them to lose water through their skin, which has become more permeable, and they have become dehydrated. As a result of this process, there is a considerable increase in the sugar content of the grapes, and the combined effect of the fungus and rising modifies their aromas.

A delicate harvest

How does the late harvest for making Gran a Gran differ from the conventional harvest carried out several weeks earlier at Pazo Baión? This late harvest is carried out in several stages. First, the grapes are harvested berry by berry. Hence, the name of the wine, the fungus action, raises all the grapes. On the other hand, according to Andrea Obenza, “the bunches of grapes affected by Botrytis noble, but which have not reached raising stage” are harvested.

All the grape harvesting work is carried out with the utmost care in an even more delicate way than in traditional harvesting. Why? The grapes affected by noble rot but which have not yet been raised have significantly weakened skins so that, as the oenologist acknowledges, any rubbing could break their skins, “causing oxidation of the must that could be lost.”

Gran a Gran, the result of this late harvest

As we pointed out at the beginning, a late harvest aims to benefit from the noble rot to produce a surprising Rías Baixas that combines the typical characteristics of Albariño with ordinary notes and aromas. We are talking about Pazo Baión Gran a Gran.

Why did Pazo Baión start making this wine? Precisely because during the 2015 harvest, the winery’s professionals discovered that in the Entrada plot, noble rot was occurring in the grapes and decided to take advantage of this fascinating natural process.

The result is an enveloping, smooth and sweet Albariño, in which the floral aromas, typical of the Albariño variety, are complemented by notes of honey and candied fruit. To all this must be added a long finish.

These virtues make Gran a Gran the perfect Rías Baixas to pair with delicious appetizers, succulent desserts, and more powerful dishes such as ribs with sweet and sour sauce.

Precisely, since we are talking about gastronomy, the vintage of Gran a Gran that we are starting to produce in our winery will have a very special quality linked to the times: it will be a vegan Albariño. In such a way that all vegans will be able to enjoy all its charms without any problem whatsoever.

In short, nature is full of fascinating processes we can exploit. That is why it is essential to take care of the vines and grapes and make the most of all their virtues. The late harvest that we carry out at Pazo Baión to make Gran a Gran is an artisanal process that allows us to produce a special raisined and semi-dry Albariño.

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