September is a balancing act of preparation and patience in the wine world, as we wait for the starter gun to fire. The call came in at 6 o’clock in the evening. “We have to pick NOW!” I dropped everything. It’s all Go! Go! Go! when it comes to harvest time in a vineyard.
Judging Harvest Time
You are up against the ripening of the grapes. Not ripe enough (not enough sugar) or too ripe (too much sugar) can heavily influence the outcome of your wine. But whilst you wait for the optimum moment, testing the sugar levels almost every day, you are also up against incoming autumn weather. And not forgetting, hungry insects and birds decimating your crop.
As if he is not busy enough, Pumpjack is working in a winery in Chablis for this harvest, then going straight to our vineyard. Harvest is the busiest time of year for a wine maker. He checks our grapes and makes certain our bird scarers are still up and flying. (Bird scarers come in many forms, ours are kites designed to look like hawks – seriously cool things.)
Never an easy decision
Our pinot noir grapes have been edging to the ripeness we need. We’ve been checking the forecast daily, sometimes many times a day. Lots of rain, once you have bunches of grapes on the vine, can mean mould and rot. The wetness gets into the closed bunches and may not dry out. This can translate into the taste of your wine, or worse ruin your crop entirely. We were facing just such a situation with a big storm approaching.
It’s mother natures way and the vagaries of a vineyard (as well as other agricultural crops) that the weather often doesn’t go your way. We lost our entire crop last year to frost and constant rain, we decided to ere on the side of caution this year.
We were very lucky when the call came through that we happened to have some friends, and their young children, visiting on the spur of the moment. They couldn’t have timed it better if they had tried. We put them straight to work as soon as they arrived. (Watch what you wish for at harvest time.)
We each had a bucket and clippers and took to the vines like hungry bees. With so many hands we made quick work of a number of rows before darkness called it quits. It certainly lessened my load for the following day!
The Early Bird Gets it Done
Bidding adieu to Pumpjack as he headed to work in Chablis at 6am the next morning, I went back in to the vineyard to bring in the rest of the grapes. The storm was due early evening, so that was my deadline. Six hours and one 15 minute break later I clipped the last row of grapes, just as Pumpjack arrived to join me. Together we made certain every last grape was harvested, just as the rain began. Phew! Time for a glass of wine…
If you would like to read more about what is involved in making the wine you quaff, please check out our About Our Wine section, which has all our posts on wine and wine making.
Or if you simply wish to know what happens in the calendar year of a vineyard:
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