Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Harvest around the Corner

Well, the news is in, harvest is just around the corner. For many it has begun, but gently, slowly. The cool spring, short summer, cool early fall, drying winds, minimal rains have all collaborated to push back the harvest for ten days to two weeks. This after multiple years of early (précoce) harvests here. It keeps you on your toes!

But, those first white grapes are coming in, and the younger reds for rosé. Picked in the cool morning air they are carried in bins to the cellars, de-stemmed (égrappées) and pressed directly before being pumped into the stainless tanks where they'll be kept cool and permitted to start fermenting either that same day, or two days later, depending on the vintner and his ability to quickly descend the temperature of his juice.
We had two fierce rain storms last week. Good news for the agricultural world -- yes, it's been a dry summer. But bad news for my roof (ouch!), and my sleep. Okay, a good harvest in 2010 is very important, that the grapes be fully ripe and not stunted is of supreme importance. But I tell you, it is a bummer getting up at 4 in the morning to put pans and cups and towels under not quite a dozen leaks, and the next night from 1-2. Yup. Better get that B&B in Arles sold so I can repair my roof!

But on to the ostensible reason for this post. This is also a period that I've lots of visitors (thank you!) and of course we visit the wineries. Thankfully I've friends and colleagues in a number of them. Thus even during this busy period we've been welcomed warmly, briefly shaking the hand of one vintner as he headed off to shower having just finished harvesting and pressing for the day. He simply left the store to me and I handled the tasting.

Last week's visits were between harvest days. The storms came down mid-week and all was put on hold till the roots absorbed the extra water. This helped the grapes finish up their ripening and from this Monday (in the case of those on the lower and more Southern slopes) the harvest picked back up.

And so depending on where you are in Provence and Southern France at this moment you will no doubt have many a tractor in the roads pulling their very full bins behind them. Some may drip a bit of that lovely red juice along the road, leaving their trail of crumbs if you will... Others having worked more carefully (hand-picked) will be gently heading down to the cellar, to the de-stemmer (égrappeur) and the presse. It's a busy busy time down here.

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