UGA Extension Viticulture Blog

Muscadine harvest update

I have had the pleasure of being out and about in some muscadine vineyards over the last several days and wanted to give an update on what’s going on in the muscadine world here in Georgia – it is quite an eventful time with harvest upon us…

Fresh market:

Harvest for fresh market muscadine grapes has been underway for a several weeks now.  Harvest has been well underway in earlier fresh market varieties like Ison, Lane, Delicious (black), and Early Fry (bronze), and harvest is picking up in mid- and late-season varieties like Supreme (black), Fry and Pam (bronze).  Since muscadines do not synchronously ripen, harvest will continue in these varieties over the next several weeks to achieve peak ripeness and size to optimize marketability.  Thus, at least three to four harvest passes are needed to maximize profitability and marketability off of fresh market muscadine vineyards.  This is a very labor intensive process as fresh market production involves hand harvesting.  See picture of asynchronous fruit ripening in Supreme, a firm, half-dollar-sized fresh market variety.

Asynchronous ripening observed in the popular fresh market variety Supreme.

I dropped in to visit with Patrick Conner, Professor and muscadine breeder here in the UGA Horticulture Department.  His program currently focuses on developing competitive fresh market muscadine varieties, although it might also shift to evaluate competitive processing varieties in the future.  Patrick has developed Lane, Hall, and Paulk.  I tried the Paulk and was blown away by it’s size, firmness, and flavor.  It is a very promising variety.  One problem with Paulk and other self-fertile fresh market varieties (i.e. Delicious) is that they tend to over crop themselves; this can result in decreased vine capacity, and inconsistent perennial vineyard health and crop potential.  Together, we will be evaluating practical ways to manage this crop imbalance in order to maximize crop production per linear foot of row in Patrick’s releases, as well as in varieties that are already commercially-popular

Paulk grapes for the fresh market.

 

Patrick Conner with a bronze selection from his program.

 

Seedlings from Patrick’s crosses – each vine is genetically unique!

 

When something promising pops up from the seedling plantings, they will tag and ID for further evaluation as a potential selection.

 

Juice/wine/general processing:

Harvest for juice/wine muscadine grapes (Carlos and Noble, bronze and black, respectively) has begun down south, and will start in about two weeks in the piedmont regions.  Carlos is typically harvested first due to its greater susceptibility to fungal rots when compared to Noble.  Depending on tank space and ripeness, Noble is often harvested in the weeks that follow Carlos harvest.  Both optimally reach roughly 16 degrees Brix at harvest.  While other varieties are at times indeed used for processing, Carlos and Noble are by far the most widely planted processing muscadines due to their traits:  self-fertile, vigorous vines that are consistent producers of high yields of quality fruit.  They also have relatively thinner skins and smaller berry size (makes them easier to process in the winery when compared to fresh market varieties).

Carlos about three weeks out from harvest for wine production in the piedmont region.

Mechanically-harvested Noble (foreground) and Carlos (background) getting ready for processing into juice in the southern region.

Carlos juice expression post-pressing.

 

Though I have been trained in bunch grapes and tried my first muscadine grape only several weeks ago, I am keen on getting to work with regional muscadine producers much more in the future.  In addition to the 10 pounds of muscadine grapes I have eaten in the last few days, I have also tried some very good muscadine wines recently.

I wish a great harvest to all muscadine producers in the state and region. For now, back to the bunch grape harvest craze up north in our research plots.