It’s September! and it’s just days to go to the grape Harvesting.
Time is coming so close… we are all running around trying to get everything organised in time…
The whole cellar, including press and the tanks, has to be steam cleaned in order to accept the grapes without imparting any impurities. The grapes are fragile at this stage!
The grower is also trying to fine tune the timing!!!
That’s most important!
The whole year has been gearing up to this, and now it is vital that the grapes are picked in prime conditions AND that it doesn’t rain!!! (Or not too much anyway!)
The growers cannot relax until they have everything picked and sitting in tanks in the cellars!
Once the all-clear is given to pick and the grower selects the first plots to pick, then it is a race against TIME!!!
The grapes won’t wait, and the growers know that from prime condition they have only a couple of days to get them into the cellar before they start to spoil.
From the middle of August, every day we go into the vines and taste a few grapes.
The grapes have to have a degree of sugar, but not too much; (there is a little tool to help with this). 12.5% is considered perfect
A degree of acidity, but not too much!
A degree of tannin, but not too much!
AND a good flavour!!!
Usually, the white grapes take on a slightly yellow hue which is an indication of a good amount of sugar (fructose to be precise)
The acidity is on the tip of the tongue
And the tannin is the dryness on the middle to the back of the mouth coming from the pips and skins of the grapes.
One has to give them a good chew to make sure the whole of the grape is balanced in flavours.
It is very important to crunch the pips to know how strong the tannins will be. It’s easy to crunch them with the front teeth (so that they don’t get stuck in your back teeth!)
The pips need to be black and crunchy. If they are green, then the tannins will be green…!
Then it’s all GO… GO… GO!!!
If the crop is large, then often the grower has to continue his harvesting well into the night to get the harvest into the cellar in time.
In our area, usually the first grapes to be harvested are the Sauvignon Blanc, shortly followed by the Gamay red.
The tanks have to be prepared to take them.
The sorting tables have to be set up to make sure that not too many stalks go in.
In warm summers there are often lots of ladybirds and wasps and whatever insects get accidentally stuck in the harvesting bins. These need to be removed as they impart a particularly bitter flavour to the grapes and wines
Warmer wines like the Chenin Blanc can be harvested much later, like mid-October as Chenin just loves the late summer sun and builds up lots of fructose to make fruitier wines, medium-dry wines and sweet wines for our Christmas pudding wines!
The whole harvesting process takes about 3 weeks altogether whether the harvest is done by machine or by hand.
This time of the year is the most IMPORTANT and the most EXCITING time of the year…!!!
When the bins of grapes start to come into the cellars and the aromas of fermenting grapes start to invade the little streets all around we know that it will be OK, that another vintage is underway and it just needs stamina to finish it all!
We get up on the sides of the bins, standing on the wheels to see how the harvest looks.
There are jugs of grapejuice on the table at every mealtime… It’s the rosé grapes that make the best grapejuice.
We push the grapes around to spread them evenly over the press so that it doesn’t get tilted over. By the way, no one has pressed grapes with their feet for a very long time!!!
And… when it is all finished we celebrate!!!