Sunday, September 16, 2007
It's the time of year when all is safely gathered in, as the song would have it. The wine estates of France (and probably the rest of the Northern Hemisphere) are collecting, pressing and fermenting the fruits of the vine and turning them into what will become the fuel for drunken mistakes. On a more optimistic note, they are producing wine which will be enjoyed throughout the world for years to come. And a few bottles of plonk to be used for cooking.
Chablis is in the middle of its harvest and the weather is perfect. Blue skies and sunshine for over a week now, the work is pleasant and there is no risk of diluting the wine with the rain water that would inevitably go with the grapes into the pressing machines.
I visited Chablis very briefly on Friday and Saturday to see G and watch the harvesters at work. It was a fascinating thing to watch, above all because it only happens once a year and for a short time. Most of the grapes are picked by a machine which drives through the vineyard shaking off the grapes; but the Grands Crus (i.e. the best grapes) are picked by hand. I never actually thought to ask why that is, but I will!
It is quite a sight to see a whole trailer full of grapes being emptied and sent to the pressing machine. I took a short film but it's on its side and the quality isn't good because it came from my regular camera. Still, it gives an idea of what hundreds of grapes sliding down a metal thing looks like.
Is it going to be a good year? Apparently it is, contrary to what everyone thought during August. With little sunshine and far too much rain they thought that the wine would be acidic and tasteless, but in the last few weeks in the warm sunshine the grapes have ripened nicely and it seems that things are looking positive.