May only the best grapes win. Winemakers will often say that “the wine is made in the vineyard,” meaning the attentive, daily care they give the vines and grapes directly determines the quality of the wine. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, in other words. By the time all those painstakingly grown and cared-for grapes are brought in to be destemmed, crushed, fermented, and made into wine months or years from the date of harvest, you can bet the winemaker will not skip the sorting table.

What Happens at the Sorting Table?

First the student dons a hat, which can talk and somehow knows what House—oops, wrong sorting. By the time the grapes reach the sorting table, it’s likely they have already gone through a preliminary selection process in the vineyard where harvesters will have discarded rotten, raisined, or unripe grapes. Next, the grapes are brought in from the vineyard to be destemmed via a machine. The loose berries are then sorted through on the sorting table.

Sorting grapes on winery sorting table, St. Francis
Sorting grapes at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma, CA

The sorting table is a long conveyor belt flanked on both sides by a team of pickers who discard the MOG by hand. MOG is Material Other than Grapes and can include stems, leaves, imperfect grapes, gardening shears that someone absentmindedly left in the crate…you name it. Alternatively, different types of machines have been invented that can also sort the berries from the MOG; either method is costly, but worth it.

Because in the end, we want to drink fermented grape juice, not vineyard scrap tea. The better quality the grapes are, and the purer the berries that go into the final product, the finer the wine will be.


Diana studied Anthropology at Penn State and Food Culture & Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. After living la bella vita in Italy for six years, she returned to the U.S. and landed in NYC. She has been working in wine since 2012 and holds WSET 2. Loves Nebbiolo and amaro. Talk to her about Italy.

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