France gets ready for the wine harvest.
September is a busy time for France’s 27,000 vineyards.
Wine has been part of French culture for centuries, and key to this are the wine grape harvests undertaken each year: les vendanges.
2021 has been a testing year for wine growers in France. The bitterly cold spring and heavy frosts in April destroyed many of the precious vines, meaning that the forthcoming French harvest could be the smallest for at least 50 years.
The harvest is crucial for the French wine regions, each of which has their own distinct terroir.
When does the wine harvest take place?
The local préfecture makes the decision on when an area can start its’ harvest. Generally les vendanges lasts for the period between August and October, with France’s more southerly regions the first to harvest the grapes.
Grapes are ready for harvesting when they achieve a certain balance of both sugar and acidity. However, wine growers can estimate the start of the harvest accurately by recording the date of the first flowering. Normally grapes are ready around 3 months afterwards, which in Burgundy (one of France’s largest wine growing regions) was around the 9th June.
How do they carry out the wine harvest?
Handpicking is of course the traditional way of harvesting grapes. It is hard work, and people throughout the local community come together to help collect the grapes from the early hours until the evening. It is a real celebration of the importance wine making is to many villages in France.
On average a grape picker (un vendangeur) harvests up to 1 tonne of fruit per day 2. Manual harvesting involves both picking and sorting at the same time; grapes too small, rotten or unripe are removed from the batch.
Larger vineyards will use mechanical harvesters which can harvest around 200 tonnes per day; and some use a mixture of both. Once sorted by hand, the grapes are transferred to the wine press. Another vintage is on its way!
… and how many grapes are needed to make 1 bottle of wine?
A lot! Or to be more precise, around 1 kilogram.
This year’s wine harvest although considerably smaller in volume is likely to be fairly good in terms of quality.
Good luck to all of those involved this year.