Burgundy Harvest Updates – 2014

I am bouncing all over the Cote d’Or on my first experience of the harvest in Burgundy.  After thirty years of visits as a buyer and tourist, I am finally witnessing how some of the greatest wines on earth are made.  The harvesters are in the vineyards by 7am, work until noon, usually have a fine lunch and rest until 2pm, and are back in the vines (or in the winery) until 7pm.  It is a long day of hard and monotonous work, but feels immensely satisfying at the end of the day, when the juice is in the vats and the wine begins to make its personality (climat, vintage, quality & quantity) known.

I began this Saturday morning September 13th by assisting at the table de triage in Gevrey-Chambertin with Sarah Bastien & Guillaume Borot of Domaine Henri Richard.  My job: to pick out the stems, leaves, and other detritus that make their way past the destemmer.

Pick out any green, brown, or leafy bits. My job at the end of the sorting table, after destemming.

But many pictures and a full vat later, I took our dejeuner de vendangeurs complemented by jus des raisins de Gevrey villages aux Corvees (12.3° ) !  Of course wine was also served.

Harvest workers are fed well! Sarah Bastien of Domaine Henri Richard dishes up Choucroute a l’Alsacienne for the vendangeurs.

After , I made my way south to help lug caisses (the harvest grape boxes that contain about 25kg of grapes – around 20 bottles all finished) with Philippe Duvernay and his son Sebastien of Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay in Chassagne.  Heavy lifting, mostly in 1er Cru Fairendes, where the fruit was being brought in at 12.5 to 12.7° potential alcohol.

Lovely fruit from Coffinet-Duvernay’s Chassagne 1er Cru Fairendes. Old vines produce clusters with quite a few millerandes, highly concentrated in flavor.
Small caisses or boxes for the harvest. Each box has about 25 kg of grapes (about 55 lbs), which produces around 20 bottles of wine (750ml) per box.
Philippe Duvernay slowly presses whole cluster fruit for almost two hours, while others, like Niellon, use a screw device to break up the clusters a bit before slowly pressing the grapes.

The harvest in the Cote de Beaune is progressing nicely, while many in the Cote de Nuits remain on the sidelines as the marvelous weather brings the Pinots to superb, near perfect ripeness.  Crews were out in force in Savigny, Aloxe, and Ladoix, but Corton Charlemagne saw nary a vendangeur.

Harvest crews out in Ladoix 1er Cru. Hardly any teams were out in the Grands Crus of Corton or Charlemagne.

Next week will bring more harvest teams out in the Cote de Nuits, as the superb weather is forecast to change to cloudy and rainy by Thursday.  But the wonderful thing about weather forecasts here in France is that they are rarely accurate and often change twice a day.  Several important growers with whom I spoke this week were planning to hit the vines further north on Monday, September 15th.

I learned of a new pest in the vineyards this week, one rather specific to red wine grapes, and caused by the small fruit fly relative named drosophila suzukii, the vinegar fly.  The fly punctures the skins of ripening grapes, allowing botrytis acetic to take hold, decimating grape bunches and turning the sweet red juice into vinegar.  It can be prolific and exceptionally damaging in warm, humid conditions, which will be another factor in when the big red producers of the Cote de Nuits decide to begin their harvests.  With unsettled weather possibly returning on Thursday, it would not be surprising to see more vendangeurs in the Cote de Nuits early next week.

A Pinot Noir bunch affected by the drosophila suzukii vinegar fly. Botryitis takes hold producing a pronounced vinegar smell and taste. This can be ruinous to fermenting vats, and is far more dangerous, and luckily, far less frequent, than normal grey rot.

Stay tuned for more harvest reports from the 2014 vintage in the Cote d’Or….. and for immediate gratification as well as more pictures, follow me on Twitter at @amitiesjerome.

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