Definition - What does Early Harvest mean?
In the context of viticulture, early harvest refers to the harvesting of the grapes prior to their peak of sugar development or ripeness. Growing regions around the world vary in when harvest begins, as harvest is determined by the sugar or acid levels of the grape. When the grapes are harvested is determined by the type of grape, type of wine being made, and the climate and weather of the region. Vineyard managers and vintners consider many factors to determine when to harvest the grapes and can lead to the decision to the early harvest wine grapes.
WineFrog explains Early Harvest
Ripeness is determined by specific charecteristics in the grape, specifically sugar and acid. An early harvest allows vintners and wine growers to harvest the grapes at the optimum time to ensure the best sugar and acid levels of the grapes and to harvest when the weather is good. Typically, growing seasons start in the spring, and harvest begins towards the latter part of summer. However, if the vintner needs a high-acid grape to make a specific style of wine, the grapes may be harvested before the sugar has fully developed, this would be an early harvest. Like wise, if a weather event was predicted, like hail or an early frost that could damage the grapes, the vineyard manager can early harvest in order to not lose the harvest to weather or frost.