It’s early October in France and we just finished harvesting our 2014 vintage. Fortunately, the weather of September in Fronsac was warm and dry, and there was much sunshine to ensure the great vintage we hoped for following doubts after a cool and rainy summer.
Our team of 15 harvesters started hand picking the grapes on September 24th. They are usually students looking to experience the harvest before school starts, or locals who come to our winery year after year. This year we started the harvest with Clos Virolle, the vineyard close to the river with sandy soils leading to earlier maturation of the grapes, and finished with Chateau Grand Renouil where the cool soils and old vines require more time to reach the perfect maturity.
The best time to pick the grapes is in the morning, when the grapes are still cool from the night’s low temperatures. Our pickers work in teams of two for each row on the vineyard. Carriers (usually men) collect the baskets from 3-4 pickers and bring their bucket full of grapes back to the tractor. The goal is to bring the grapes back to the cellar while they are still fresh. Once there, we put the grapes through a machine called “erafleuse”, which separates the stems from the berries, and sends the berries to the vats where the fermentation process will start almost immediately.
Only 20% of French wineries still harvest by hand today, but we believe it is a necessary step to achieve great wines. Moving forward, we now need to carefully monitor the fermentation process in the cellar where the sugar turns into alcohol. The next few months until December will be crucial for us to make the best use of our grapes and put our family signature onto this vintage. The grapes are in the vats but the work is not over yet!
After a shortage due to too much popularity on our Blanc de Grand Renouil, we are happy to announce that we just finished bottling our 2013 vintage, which is now available for sale. Part of the 3000 bottles production was pre-sold, and we will do our best to accommodate all requests, but don’t wait too long!
As July came to an end, grapes slowly started turning from green to red, ripening until mid-August. During summer, our role is to create all the conditions for the grapes to reach their best potential for the harvest. So how do we do that? First step is the “effeuillage”: removing the lower leaves from the vines so that the sun shines directly on the grapes, allowing for faster maturation and faster drying when it rains, lowering the chances of rot. Second step is the “green harvest”: cutting down some of the grapes on the vines, to keep only the best. These lucky ones will then receive more nutrients from the soil, resulting in a richer grape juice, and thus richer wine. As for everything we do, those delicate steps are done by hand in our winery.
We are now expecting the 2014 harvest to start around September 22nd. Many harvesters are already booking their spot to be part of the challenging, but very fun, experience of the harvest. If you want to see a “traditional” grape harvest done by hand, feel free to come and visit us at that time. Enjoy your summer, On behalf of the Ponty Family, Helene