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Every year in September comes a moment as dreaded as it is magical: the harvest.

THE HARVEST: WHAT IS IT?

Harvesting is the process of harvesting the grapes to make wine. They take place every year between the end of August and the beginning of October. Most often, they occur during mid-September depending on the region.

To start the harvest, the winegrower will have to determine when the grapes get the best balance between their acidity and sugar.

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AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED PERIOD

I remember perfectly the first time a winegrower told me about the harvest. Coming from Brittany, it was for me a completely new and rather strange concept.

This winegrower then explained something that was finally elementary to me. When an office employee makes a mistake, he risks punishment, learns from his mistakes and will ensure that he does not repeat them.

But nature is a “difficult mistress” and does not forgive easily. Indeed, if a winegrower commits a mistake, he will have to wait a year to get another chance.

THE HARVEST: A SUFFERING AT EVERY MOMENT

If there is one single feeling that drives the winegrowers during this period, it would be fear.

But for that to happen, we have to go back. In early spring, the first buds appear on the vine. Then there are the frosts. Then the fruits finally show up. Then it’s the hail.

Fortunately, it’s summer now! … and storms, high temperatures and then lack of rain.

As you will have understood, it is not so obvious to arrive at the harvest with good quality grapes. So for a winegrower, the harvest is really the final stretch of a fighter’s course.

WAIT FOR THE RIGHT TIME TO START

So, the harvest period has arrived. It is now necessary to watch for the perfect ripening of the berries.

Indeed, to make wine, you need grapes at a certain degree of ripeness. If it is not ripe enough, the wine will be acidic and green (the term “green” comes from the same term that describes wood). If it is too ripe, the wine will lack freshness and be heavy.

This is why the grapes must be picked at the right time so that the finished product is a good balance between sugar and acidity.

MECHANICAL OR MANUAL HARVESTING? THAT IS THE QUESTION

There is often a debate among wine experts as to whether the most efficient way to harvest grapes is by hand or by machine.

Today, this question does not make much sense to me. Harvesting machines (or enjambeuses) nowadays have on-board computers that allow you to choose the most noble berries on a grain-by-berry basis.

Competent pickers are nowadays difficult to find. Many resign during the harvest, as the work is too hard.

It seems to me that hand-picking is above all a marketing argument. Except for exceptional wines where the machine is not yet efficient enough, or A.O.C. wines which do not allow it (as in Champagne).

Afterwards, I’ll let you discuss the cultural and folklore issues, but from a wine-growing point of view: it doesn’t change much!

FROM THE VINE TO THE PRESS

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Then, it is necessary to quickly transport the fragile berries to the press in order to extract the purest juice.

The risk at this point is that the berries start fermenting without control. This could give the wine unwanted aromas.

Now, we still have to make the best wine from all these harvested grapes.

But that’s another story.

If you want to escape this weekend, I invite you to discover the excellent site I discovered last week.

RUE DES VIGNERONS

This is a site that allows you to book vineyard visits throughout France. I think it is important to remind you that the best way to understand wine is to go there.

You are free to read my article on single malt whisky.

And what are you doing this weekend? Tell me in commentary.

See you very soon,
Corentin – DesVinsaVous

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J'adore le vin et je me suis spécialisé depuis plusieurs années dans le whisky du monde entier. J'adore transmettre et échanger sur tous les métiers de bouche et/ou de service.

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