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Heatwaves force early Spanish wine harvests and night-time picking

Workers at Bodega Andres Morate vineyards look like fireflies when they drive their wheelcarts across the vines, cutting grape bunches at night.

Some Spanish vineyards, such as this one outside Madrid, were forced to begin harvesting earlier than usual due to the extreme summer heat and drought caused by climate change. To avoid the scorching August heat, they have switched to night-time grape picking.

Grapes are typically harvested around September, but Andres Morate began harvesting grapes on his 20-hectare plot on 24 August.

It’s not the normal way. He said that without heat, harvests were earlier but have been moved forward in recent years.

“And now, there is the drought on the top of everything…This has been one of the toughest ever summers and each year there are (temperature record breaking) being broken.”


According to a Nature Geoscience journal study, climate change has made parts of the Iberian peninsula their driest for 1,200 years. Three unusually long heatwaves in Spain this summer have set off wildfires.

Morate stated that although grapes grew well, they were less juicy due to the dry heat.

Morate is a proponent of sustainable, environmentally-friendly grape production that doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or irrigation. However, late-in the season, the weather has accelerated that process to a detrimental effect.


He said that working at night from sundown to 2 or 3 a.m. has many benefits for pickers and grapes, before they are pressed for wine. The more concentrated their aroma and flavour is, the cooler they arrive at the winery.

Javier, a 33-year-old grape picker, stated that working at night is better “because it’s cooler, there aren’t any insects, and you have more fun. We wouldn’t have the time to come here during the day, so we would just be baking.”

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