“A quick lunch of Cremant and we’re back at it.”
…He says. They 65 year old women doing harvest alongside me didn’t seem so daunted. It seems the younger amongst those in that Bourgogne vineyard didn’t know what was about to hit us.
So yeah my back canes and the balls of my feet might never recover but I have to say it was one of the coolest days of my life. I know. I’m a loser. Most of my mates would chuck the secateurs in the air, pull the shotgun to the sun and barrel the whole ordeal on the first vine. They’d probably reload and point it at me for getting them into it. It is hard work and utterly, robustly pointless if, and only if, you don’t have a peculiar desire to learn all there is to know about grapes. And winemaking obviously. There has to be an endgame. Mmmmmn. Can you say: “I need to get out more” whilst talking about working in a field?
Our first day is dominated by a word which is will likely go over-the-head of most and ironically relates to something that make most heads dizzy: “Cremant”. Now Cava, Prosecco and of course Champagne will be known to most in the UK… and more and more… English Sparkling Wine. Cremant is France’s version when it’s not made within the 34,000-odd hectares of Champagne.
It can be just as good if not better. Champagne, traditionally, is made from three grape varieties: Pinot Noir (yes, I know, it’s a red grape… they don’t keep the skins in contact with the juice so no colour is extracted), Pinot Meunier (also red) and Chardonnay.
The Cremant made at Domaine D’Edouard is made up of 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and we’re harvesting those today. I’d never laid my hands on either and they taste great. They’re not as large as table grapes (which tend to be a different species of grape altogher) and there are seeds in them but I happily munch them all day.
A pair of secateurs and a bucket: Two harvesters go for a row (these rows have 100 vines in each and take about an hour to get through).
The method is simple: Up to the vine, tear away at the leafy canopy and snip the bunch from the vine. You then check the bunch for any bad grapes (botrytis for example – I’ll explain in a later blog) and into the bucket it goes.
It’s physical work, lots of bending over the vine, lots of kneeling, lots of “O Putain” (French expletive: no translation necessary). I’m in agony by mid-day especially as it only took two hours for me to stab myself. There are seven rows of vines and then a break where the tractor, carrying a trailer filled with boxes, can fit through. The tractor moves up with us and every so oftem the shout comes out: “a vide”. We pass our full buckets over the vines and empty ones come back. Off we go again.
A quick lunch of Cremant and we’re back at it. 8-12, 2-5. It’s a long day and a shower’s in order but however exhausting and painful… it was pretty cool.
I stay behind to make the wine. That is bloody awesome and requires a forthcoming post of it’s own.
Now to that shower. And to bed. And to harvest day 2 in the morn.
PS: does anybody know if stabbing yourself in the palm with secateurs hurts the next day? Asking for a friend.