All In A Day’s Harvest: Harvesting The Bordeaux Blanc Of Château Thieuley
As of today, we are well on our way harvesting the Bordeaux Blanc here at Château Thieuley.
A typical day during the harvest begins quite early – as technically we are picking the grapes at night (around 3:30 AM). We do this because we want the grapes to be as fresh as possible (not warm) to start the winemaking process. We pick our grapes by machine, which is not only highly convenient but by doing this we are able to wait until the best possible ripeness. Once the harvested grapes arrive to the winery, Marie – my sister – awaits. She is the winemaker, which means that she is the boss.
We typically use skin contact maceration for most of the white grapes. The time of maceration (the softening and breaking down of skin) will depend on the type of grape – or variety, the pH levels, if the skin is hard or easy to peel, the taste of the berry, etc. In the winery, we have to organize all the work for the team. Often we employ foreign trainees during this period (if they speak some French!), as this allows for new perspective and insight. These trainees often keep us knowledgeable about new technologies in winemaking, as well.
Cold settling, pressing, watering, cleaning, looking after the temperature and the fermentation, are our main activities at the moment. Really, this week is the quiet time of the harvest. When the red grapes are ready – things will pick up pace very quickly. That is why we organize our team in night and day shifts, as it permits our team to be much more efficient. The work in the cellar is of utmost importance until December. Everyone believes that the harvest is complete in October but once the grapes are in the tanks, there is still even more work to do. Harvest can be quite tiring because there’s so much physical work in the cellar. Fortunately, Marie and I are very active women and that definitely helps.
After organizing the Bordeaux Blanc, Marie and I head to the vines to taste the red grapes. We note the taste of the juice, the ripeness of the cluster, the thickness of the skin. We also take analytical notes (sugar level, pH, acidity level, etc.), which will permit us to organize the date of harvest for each plot (and we have many plots!). Thus, we spend a great deal of time in the vines.
Choosing the right date of the red wine harvest is crucial for making truly good wine. Often, it’s easy to miscalculate and hurry the harvest but it is important to select the optimal moment for ultimate ripeness. We observe the weather forecast at least twice a day on two different websites, and we are vigilant about any impending storms. Last week, the forecast called for hail – but it never came. Even still, we did not get any sleep that night.
On a typical day during harvest, we usually have a quick family lunch. It is important as we talk about everything together. Our father also wants to stay informed, even if he never goes to the cellar during harvest. My mother is always here as well – to make our lives a little less complicated. Often, I will go to the office and answer emails, while Marie takes a nap from her early start. Then, perhaps some more work in the cellar and vines in the afternoon…
Even still, the sun is here – it’s bright and shining. It will all be fine.