As the annual harvest season draws to a close, grapes that are not deemed wine-worthy are cut from their vines and dropped to the ground. And that’s where they are left, serving as a natural form of mulch for the vineyards.
In some cases, clusters are “dropped” to limit the ultimate yield of the vine, concentrating aromas and flavors in the remaining grapes.
Take a close look at the picture, and you’ll see grapes in various stages of decomposition — from whole berries just recently dropped, to raisins that have been on the ground for several days.
Birds swoop in and claim some of the sweet berries and their juice, but the rest of the grapes are allowed to naturally “reconnect” with the soil.
No machines are used for picking in these river-side vineyards. All of the work is performed by hand, and experienced grape pickers know how to sort and separate the best fruit from the rest. The best is carted in baskets to crushing machines; the rest becomes part of the soil, a contributor to future harvests.
That’s one way Wachau Valley vintners maintain the high level of quality in their Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and other varietal wines.