September marks the beginning of the grape harvest season for most wineries in Hungary. This is an exciting time of hard work, joy and tradition. It’s also one of the most important elements in the process of winemaking and winemakers must do everything they can to ensure the very best results for their wines.
Here’s an insider’s look at a typical harvest day. These photos were taken by Gabor Ancsin at the Szent Donát Winery in Csopak, a historic wine making region located near Lake Balaton. A special thanks to Tamás Kovács, co-owner and manager of the winery for providing us access to his facilities.
View of the Szent Donát Winery. Although founded in 2001, this small family-owned winery has been producing wine in Csopak for several generations dating back to the beginning of the 19th century.
Stone craving of Szent Donát. The winery is named after St. Donatus, the patron saint of winemakers in Csopak. According to the legend he protects the vineyards and orchards from storms, hail and lightning.
Clusters of grapes ripening on a vine. Italian Riesling (Olaszrizling) is the dominant variety in the region.
Tamás Kovács, co-owner and manager taste tests a grape for ripeness. Grapes may be bitter or underdeveloped if picked too early. If picked too late, the sugar levels may get too high.
Calibrating a refractometer. This special piece of test equipment helps to determine the amount of sugar in the grape juice.
Looking through the refractometer.
A worker sorting through clusters of grapes on a vine. Hand-picking is tedious work but allows for the selection of better grapes.
A worker carrying a bucket and a bin through a vine row. To ensure the grapes are protected from being crushed or damaged, small plastic bins are used to transport them.
A worker cutting a cluster of grapes with shears. Grapes are cut in the cool, early morning hours to keep the astringency to a minimum.
A plastic bin filled with grapes that are ready for processing. The grapes must arrive in pristine condition.
Workers taking a break. Grape harvesting is very labor intensive and often involves working for long hours.
A tractor hauling plastic bins filled with grapes to the winery’s facilities.
Tamás Kovács and his father offloading bins of grapes for processing. They must work fast as grapes begin to deteriorate soon after picking.
Grapes being dumped into a receiving hopper. The grapes will then be crushed and separated from their stems.
Grape must (pulp) being pumped into a fermenter.
Underground cellars. The winery produces approximately 12,000 bottles per year.
Visitors drinking wine in the tasting room.
Visitors enjoying a sumptuous dinner at the winery’s restaurant.
View of the winery’s terrace at night overlooking the village of Csopak.