At the point of picking, each grape represents a potential value to a winery that needs to be protected if it is to be realised. Grapes are relatively fragile and perishable items, and the journey from vine to a controlled fermentation process, although brief, is full of opportunities to diminish that potential value.
- What are the grapes worth? From observation, there seems to be a relationship between total harvest tonnes, and the revenue per tonne achieved (as an example, the graph below displays a curve describing that relationship). A winery with higher tonnage is likely to be servicing most price points, including commercial and soft-pack products, with lower margins, and lower revenue per tonne. A smaller intake is likely to produce higher-quality, higher-margin bottled wines, with a resulting increase in revenue per tonne. This is not a definitive result, of course – there is often a significant delay between picking the grapes and selling the bottle, particularly for premium wines. This is an illustration, and each winery is better placed than Thoughtpool to fill in its own numbers, but the point remains valid.
- What is the cost of unrealised potential? Again each winery will have the best idea of the answer, but if we take an intake of 5,000 tonnes, with a value of $4,000 revenue/tonne, then an event which renders 1% (about 2.5 truckloads of grapes) of the harvest unusable would possibly cost the business $200,000 in revenue. The flipside: improve the value-protection by 1% and that $200,000 is nearly all profit. A better-organised harvest is a critical step in preserving the harvest’s value.
Planning is the key to the better-organised harvest, and can start with harvest projections based on historical data extrapolated to the coming vintage, as early as September or October prior to harvest. More specific planning begins with sampling – each sample will trigger a new prediction for a block, and all blocks can be re-predicted to cater for changing weather conditions.
The harvest plan is the aggregation of all the block predictions at a point in time, forming a composite picture of the harvest and its “shape”, a harvest calendar. A number of visualisations are possible, from mapping to Google Earth or similar to a simple spreadsheet.