Definition - What does Hang Time mean?
In the context of viticulture, hang time is the amount of time viticulturists let grapes hang on the vine for in order for them to ripen. Leaving the grapes on the vine to ripen increases sugar content, reduces water content and concentrates flavors. This relatively new ripening method has growers and vintners expressing concerns even though wines made with hang time grapes have excellent fruit flavors and high alcohol.
WineFrog explains Hang Time
While wines made from grapes that have been allowed adequate hang time to ripen fully have high alcohol, are full-bodied and have pronounced fruity flavors, many growers and vintners disagree about the benefits of hang time versus the risks. When grapes are ripened by hang time, the grape loses water content and becomes slightly shriveled, what we would consider over-ripe in a table grape.
Even though hang time is a natural process, there is much growers and vintners still have to learn, as this method has slowly become more popular since the early 2000’s. Growers have concerns over harvest yields, as the grapes can have up to 25% percent less water weight, and concerns over the stresses placed on the vine. While no studies have been done to see how hang time affects vines, growers fear the additional stress can shorten the lives of the vines affecting future growth and harvest yields of the vineyard.
Vintners who appreciate the higher sugar levels and concentrated flavors of hang time-ripened grapes, may find the flavors too concentrated and add water to make a palatable wine. The issue of the water weight is felt by growers, as water and the reduced weight of the grapes affects the cost per pound they receive for the grapes. As growers and vintners learn more about hang time and how it affects the vine and the wine making process, we may see changes in the amount of hang time grapes get on the vine.