As we sip our favourite wines of an evening, or even a lunchtime if you are so inclined, we rarely think about just how this fine beverage has ended up in our glass. Of course, the more seasoned sommeliers and wine experts may do so every now and again but this is unlikely to be an overly frequent occurrence. As we explore in the latest feature from Octavian Vaults, the journey from the vineyard to the winery is a very important one and the wine grape harvest is actually far more accessible than one would think.
The wine harvest here in the UK, the vendange in France and the vendemmia in Italy – the process may differ when it comes to terminology but the art of harvesting grapes for wine is one that has taken place for millennia. The late summer tradition has hardly changed over the centuries despite advances in technology and one can even join in with the fun these days, with trips to south France or Italy to get involved not uncommon.
For instance, a trip to Côte de Beaune in the heart of Burgundy in September will allow you to enjoy the most quintessential wine production in the world, no-one does it quite like the French.
As mentioned, late summer and in particular September should see the peak of the grape harvest in Europe but it isn’t actually something you can set your calendar by. Ultimately, the harvest is determined by the vintage in question, the soil and of course the quality of grape. So, should you be pondering a trip to Tuscany or Bordeaux be sure to check with the local vintners, or you could arrive only to be disappointed.
There are no crafty tricks for joining the wine grape harvest, due to the unpredictability of the aforementioned factors but there really is no substitute for good old research. If you are a fan of fine wine, which we are sure you are if you’re a regular reader here at the Octavian Vaults blog, then you will know what you like. It is then a case of picking your region and finding out just how the wine harvest is looking. Odd weather conditions and the already discussed factors of the vintage of soil to think about, so we recommend starting to plan your trip to the harvest well in advanced.
Once you have decided upon your region and vineyard, then you may well be wondering what is needed in terms of equipment. If you are booking an excursion through a reputable tour operator then the chances are that you will be well catered for but just in case you want to turn up looking like an experienced harvester, the following items could be a good start:
Again, this apparatus is likely to be provided for you before you head out to join in on the wine harvest, but knowing about the above could help you to avoid the blushes when you arrive and are surrounded by harvest aficionados.
It is important to remember also, that harvesting in classic wine producing areas such as Italy and France is still done entirely by hand. So don’t be turning up for the harvest with any fancy machinery as you are likely to escorted off the premises and most likely, the town as well!
The chances are that you are planning a fun weekend away or maybe a week for your harvesting trip, but the process actually takes most vineyards around 15 days. Growers typically put together a team of trained pickers (so don’t be ashamed if you can’t quite keep up) who will spend days cutting the bunches of grapes and placing them carefully in the baskets above. Individuals called porters will then usually come and pick these up to be taken to the next stage of the wine making process.
The atmosphere is always festive though and you will surely be made to feel welcome, as long as you follow instructions and don’t ruin any precious grapes. This is business time and the most important time of the year for vineyards, so enjoy your time there but be sure to be respectful of local rules and customs.
This is a quick guide to getting involved with the wine harvest, but this does vary dependent on where you are in the world. So be sure to do your homework and check with the region you are heading to about how to best approach this intriguing pastime.
We hope these tips on how to join the wine grape harvest was useful, feel free to take a look at some of the other fine wine guides here at the Octavian Vaults blog.