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!
Wishing you a great month of October!
For the Ponty Family,