Harvest time or hardest time for winemakers?

The year 2018 has been a good year for the Provençal region with respect to wine. Although there was an initial scare of little to no rain, about a week of rains in July alleviated the anxiety of the winemakers. Most winemakers that we spoke to this year seem to be very happy about the harvest and are looking forward to a good few months of winemaking; a stark contrast to how the situation was a couple of years ago in 2016. Here is a look at what happened that year:

Is this time of year harvest time or the hardest time for winemakers? Like always when talking about wine, it depends.

But yes, it is the hardest if you do it manually, and your vines are planted on steep slopes. It is a crucial period of time for the winemaker, as the whole work of the year is coming to an end, leaving them hoping that the weather conditions will be great for the harvest – the final combat!

So when does it start? You can start harvesting when the first publication of administrative harvest bans, or authorization of the Prefecture of grape harvest (the wine police if you will), says so – generally  ” 100 days” after flowering vines.

In fact, Mother Nature maintains the upper hand in the choice of the date.

Have the grapes ripened properly? In other words, is the balance between the sugar & acidity at its optimum point?

You need a few analyses to determine the acidity levels and also, the most important part, the experience of the winemakers to decide when it is the first picking day.

Harvest time has begun and the new vintage 2016 will soon be in production! Well, actually it started already.

Here in Cannes, the vineyard of the Lerins Island started mid-August to pick the grapes and is already over.

In Cotes de Provence appellation, it started on August 25th and will end for some at the end of September.

This 2016 vintage harvest will be very different from one region to another. Indeed, here in Provençe, we did not get any rain since the end of June, and the water stress will definitely impact the quantity of juice per grape. So the yields in the appellation should be less than the two previous years, but the quality of the juice should be better: so less rosé for your summer 2017 guys!!! Get your ice cubes ready!

In the Languedoc region, we had the same heat conditions, with even higher temperatures, and in some areas a real disaster because of the thunderstorm on Wednesday, August 17th that devastated 500 ha of vines in only 15 minutes.Frosty vineyard

Just look at this picture, it looks like winter!

We usually say NO PAIN NO GAIN… , but working the whole year in a vineyard is a lot of pain, and 10 days prior to the harvest to lose everything … you really become desperate!

And this 2016 vintage in France could have been a reality show: The Desperate Winemakers!!!!

Indeed, previously during the year, the vineyard of Menetou Salon (lost 90%) of production, Muscadet, then Chablis and Cognac vineyard in July was very badly damaged by the haze and thunderstorm but also in some part by frost. Frost

So you’ve got it … this year your favorite Pinot Noir from Burgundy will cost you a little more money for sure …be prepared….

So this year experts say we’ll have 8% less wine to sell or drink, depending on which side of the counter you are on.


Sadly, what happened in 2016 was doomed to repeat itself in 2018 in Bordeaux.


So, the next time you pick up a bottle of wine, maybe you’ll remember to appreciate all the climatic factors that had to be ‘normal’, for you to get that bottle of wine!


If you want to learn more about wine, join one of our wine classes here.


Original post 23/09/2016.

This post was edited on 14/09/2018

Harvest time or hardest time pin

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