Vineyard Year – Harvesting

March 19th, 2018

Strangely, much of the activity associated with coming harvest is in reality out of sight of the vineyard. Detailed arrangements need to be made for those hectic days to come, when everything must work like clockwork – and seldom does! Experienced pickers need to be on standby – though the actual date of harvest is not known until the very last minute. Willing volunteers’ must be mustered and counted, equipment must be checked and ready, transport arranged and everything must be synchronised with the winery who will shortly take over responsibility for this journey from vine to exceptional wine.

To complicate matters each variety of grape in the vineyard will mature at a slightly different rate and now weekly samples of grapes are randomly being taken from the vineyard, weighed, pressed and the juice immediately analysed to calculate the sugar and acid content. We gather round the equipment like excited children to see the results as we measure the potential content of alcohol, the level of acidity and the index of grape maturity, which suggests an ideal date to harvest the grapes from each aspect of our vineyard. The date chosen will vary from late September to early October according to the now receding extended days of summer and with a careful eye on the long range weather forecast, since excessive rain now would be a disaster. Of the three varieties of grapes grown in our vineyard, it’s the Pinot Noir and Meunier that will be ready first. Though the grapes are red, the juice, to the surprise of many, is white, unless prolonged contact with the skins is allowed to enable the purple pigment (which colours the skin) to discolouring it in varying shades from rose to red. . The Meunier grapes are quite similar to the strong characteristic of the Pinot Noir, but pickers notice that their bouquet is intense and often a bit more fruity. It provides smoothness to the blends. The Chardonnay grapes ripen a little later so are picked on a separate day are characterised by delicate aromas and great freshness. These characteristics provide the particular elegance of our San Gabriel Blanc de Blanc, while at the same time contributing to the subtlety of our blended wines.

In common with Champagne practice, picking of each variety is strictly done by hand in our vineyard and all on the same day, to avoid any damage to the bunches before they arrive at the press and to maintain consistent quality. On picking day, the team of pickers, many of whom are excited volunteers, enter the vineyards on either side of each row and carefully cut the bunches from the vines with secateurs, placing them with equal care into small picking trays which are aeration with holes to avoid asphyxiation and overheating of the berries and hold around 30lb of grapes. Porters are assigned the task of transporting the full baskets to the top of each row where they are painstakingly weighed to ascertain the yield from each row for ongoing vineyard development purposes. Once weighed and labelled the grapes are must transported carefully to the press. Where on receipt they are again weighed and entrusted to the team in the winery. As those who remain in the vineyard sit down to a communal well earned meal, emotions of elation and yet somehow an empty sense of loss are common as they survey the now grapeless vines. Everyone is exhausted, the harvest is safe, but in the winey the days work has only just begun.

 

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