Ah, it’s grape harvest time ... Vines loaded with violet or golden grape clusters, daily harvests, tractor engines in the distance, the laughter of grape harvesters and the expert look of the vine growers ... Every year in September, the harvest gets the Burgundy wine production process under way. In different estates of the Côte de Beaune, you can enjoy this unique experience in the heart of the vineyards for yourself. But before grabbing your pruning shears or picking up your baskets, maybe we should tell you a little more?
Dates for Burgundy’s grape harvest: who decides?
Although the grape harvest in Burgundy usually begins in September, it’s the soil, the vintage and the grape variety that will initially determine the date when harvesting begins on an estate. For a wine grower, this choice is crucial for a successful operation.
To determine this date, several techniques are available for him to use. The oldest is to taste the grape ... The winemaker takes the bunch in his mouth and bites into it so that the juice can escape. In this way, he can gauge the sugar and thus alcohol level! A traditional technique still practised today.
In Burgundy, harvesting is done by hand
In Burgundy, although some wine-producing estates use machines to harvest their grapes, most harvesting is still done manually. The vine grower, depending on the size of his holding, puts together a team of grape pickers that he trains from the outset to sort and select the grapes. In general, harvesting takes 10 to 15 days and requires about 20 harvesters.
During the harvest, the harvesters cut the bunches of grapes and place them meticulously in baskets which are then picked up by porters. For those new to the process, there’s nothing to worry about! Out in the vineyards, the more experienced usually help newcomers and train the young harvesters. This often festive atmosphere with its unique conviviality should be experienced at least once in your lifetime.
A typical harvester’s day
A typical day for a grape harvester begins around 7.30 am. After two hours of work, the estate offers coffee, red and white wine, and a snack to the entire team in the vineyards. At 12.30, it’s time to take a lunch break, which usually lasts an hour.
It's 5.00 pm! The harvesters put their baskets and pruning shears away and return home ... It’s a well-deserved rest and an opportunity to get their strength back before the new working day that awaits them.
In some estates, grape harvesters may be asked to work in the vat rooms as well. Generally, this is the sorting table, but sometimes two or three people are recruited to do other work related to winemaking.
After all the effort, it’s time to relax! With the Paulée, the end of the harvesting means the beginning of the festivities. Over a meal, all the harvesters, winegrowers and friends gather, eat together and taste the wines from the estate. It’s an opportunity to give thanks, to remember a few anecdotes, to toast and make plans for the next year!