The French wine harvest!
Well it’s been go-go-go here in South West France - harvest season is finally here!
The rolling vineyards have been brimming with activity and the festivities to celebrate will be almost upon us. This, friends and folks, is La Vendange!
Vines ready for harvest!
As with most good things in France, however, you have to get through a little bit of bureaucracy first. See, there is a law in some French regions where harvesting the vines is banned throughout the year and only until the local prefecture agrees, can the ban be lifted.
Traditionally, the lifting of the ban is announced 100 days after the flowering of the vines.
In nearby Saint Emilion, the lifting of the ban (lever le ban des vendanges) is one of the most celebrated events of the year, where the 800 year old Jurade brotherhood, dressed in their traditional red robes, perform a ceremony to proclaim the harvest. An experience not to be missed!
Many winemakers still pick by hand but nowadays machines are also commonly used.
This video is of our neighbouring vineyard, it’s fascinating to watch the action up close!
The actual harvesting dates vary depending on many factors including the year’s weather, the region, and the variety of grape.
Even then, winemakers will meticulously measure acidity and sugar levels to decide when the grapes are ready to harvest.
They will then pick them at times of the day with sunlight, temperature and weather conditions all taken into careful consideration.
Extreme weather can be devastating for winegrowers.
In the vineyards surrounding Cousserat the harvests began a couple of weeks ago and the (normally tranquil) countryside has been abuzz with activity.
Our delightful local café/bar (Café du Midi) is always filled with seasonal workers who flock to the region at this time of year.
And our gîtes are often booked up with wine-lovers who holiday here especially to witness the harvest. Some even go on tours where you can fully experience the hand-picking and pressing of the grapes yourself!
Here are the vines once the grapes have been plucked.
At the end of the harvest, there are festivals and fireworks far and wide. The whole community comes together to sing, dance, and (most importantly) toast a glass of the finest French wine to the season gone...