Manual harvesting ? In the 21st century ? It must be a joke… Well, not at all. The machine cannot replace Man, it does not have his sensitivity, his know-how and his subtle touch. Many winegrowers choose manual harvesting because, beyond being a good time, it is much less aggressive for the vines. Come with us, we explain everything to you.
The harvest, what is it?
Harvest, when you think about it, is a funny word. No no, winegrowers do not barter angels at the local market (sell angels, thank you Oé for the pun), the harvest is the time when the winegrowers and their team of seasonal workers pick the grapes that have grown well summer!
Yes, it's not all about growing grapes and caring for them , you also have to harvest them. You may have fruit trees , fruit plants , vegetables or even aromatic herbs at home , you agree with us, taking care of them is great, watching them grow is rewarding and picking is the holy grail! If you are curious, you may also have closely followed the evolution of your plants and you will have noticed that your fruit or vegetable takes shape little by little and that it ripens over time.
As is often said, everyone has their own tastes, there are some who prefer very young, barely ripe fruits , which are very crunchy , while others prefer them ripe when they are softer . The simplest example is the cherry. You have surely come across bright red, almost pink cherries, which are very firm , and very ripe cherries , dark in colour, almost black, with a very tender flesh that melts in your mouth . If fruit doesn't speak to you too much, maybe the pasta example will be more universal. You know the debate, rather al dente or melting? A different cooking time gives you a dough with a different texture, everyone has their own preference.
In short, all that to say that for grapes , it's the same thing. The winegrower chooses the moment that seems ideal for harvesting the grapes according to the maturity he is looking for. We speak of late harvest when the grapes are harvested when they are overripe . What's the point ? Well in over-ripening, a noble rot forms on the grape, which gives it unique aromas . Late harvests are required to produce a good straw wine! Does it ring a bell ? We explain everything to you in this article.
The harvest season usually takes place at the end of the summer between September and October. Anyway, that was especially before because over the years the winegrowers tend to bring the harvest forward. Now, they often take place in mid-September and for the earliest harvests , some even take place at the end of August. In 2020, this is unprecedented, the climatic conditions have greatly accelerated the growth of the grapes and some areas have started harvesting in mid-August. This is unprecedented, even for early harvests .
And after ? Well you know the music, once harvested, the grapes are brought to the cellar to pass on the sorting table . As at the checkout of a store or in a recycling warehouse, a large conveyor belt is used on which the bunches of grapes scroll so that the team can sort them ( small berries, large berries, more or less mature grapes, etc.) . Then we move on to destemming, where we separate the berries from the stalks . The grapes are then crushed ( we extract the juice from the berries ) and then roll young, we vinify the juice to produce a good organic wine! We finally bottle it to delight your taste buds. Yum !
The harvest, how is it going?
The advantage of harvesting is that unlike picking mushrooms , there is no need for a truffle dog. The winegrowers know their estate by heart and know how to find their way around the hectares of vines as far as the eye can see.
Manual harvesting, a return to origins
We are used to hearing this phrase “you are never better served than by yourself”, and what is true is that nothing beats a job well done by hand. Nothing new under the sun, man has always known how to manage to find his food and picking grapes is not going to scare us. Said like that, it seems simple, and if in principle it is, the reality is however a little more complicated than that. Yes, between picking three apples in the garden and having to harvest tons of grapes , there is a world.
If manual harvesting is within everyone's reach, it is above all very energy-intensive and takes a lot of time. It's meticulous physical work that requires elbow grease and a very solid back.
If there is one that adores manual harvesting , it is the vine. Human hands are much softer (even if you think you have big paws) than the picking arms of harvesters , and the vines really like to be treated with delicacy when harvesting by hand . So, unless you're Edward Scissorhands, you have everything you need to be a good picker with a subtle touch!
Mechanical harvesting, an industrial progress
Craftsmanship is great, at Oé we love it and we support it wholeheartedly, but sometimes it becomes difficult, especially for winegrowers who have large wineries .
Do you see that Monday morning moment when your boss gives you an insurmountable pile of things to do? We reassure you at Oé this is not the case, we work in joy and good humor but we have seen that in lots of films. In any case, it is an impression that a winegrower can have when he has to harvest hectares and hectares of vines . Fortunately for that, technological progress comes to the rescue and sometimes you can't refuse a helping hand.
If the winegrower opts for a harvesting machine , it is not out of laziness or ecological unconsciousness, it is quite simply because to offer you quality wines he must ensure that the grape harvest is done in the right time. As we said a little earlier for the early and late harvests , the timing of the picking is very important and the harvesters allow much faster work, even if it is more aggressive for the vine .
A good mix between the touch of man and the efficiency of the machine, here is the ideal compromise for a well maintained biological field !
Manual harvesting, a work of passion
“Hey oh, hey oh, we’re coming home from work…”
That's it, are you there? With an air of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in your head, a well-filled crate of grapes under your right arm and secateurs in your left hand, you are a real winegrower after a good day's work.
Yes, after a long day in the vineyards , you can whistle and especially blow. Harvesting is a very physical job, which requires concentration, patience and stamina but it is very rewarding . As the day progresses, seeing your bags of grapes fill up, you look more like Merry than Grumpy , that's for sure! By working in the fields, you can look like Atchoum from time to time (private joke for those allergic to pollens) but especially in the evening, you become Sleeper . In any case, while doing the harvest, you meet a formidable team, and under the advice of Prof (the winegrower of course), you are no longer Timid and even less Dopey . By working in contact with the vines, you learn to understand nature, you discover the world of wine as closely as possible and you become a real pro in viticulture !
(Source, Video-club Jean Vigo)
Well done, we managed to slip the 7 dwarfs into the paragraph, but then Snow White, where is she? Well, we reassure you, viticulture is not just a man's job, women also have their place in the vineyards. At Oé in any case, there are more superwoman than superman in the team, and the wine holds no secrets for them.
So, you are ready to sing loudly “ Oé, Oé, we have just harvested... ”! (sounding like Snow White of course)
Every year we go to see our Oé winegrowers to participate in the harvest of their vineyards with them. Relive the experience with us thanks to this video (click on the image).
Treat yourself by tasting our good organic, vegan and pesticide-free wines that we produce hand in hand with our winegrowers . Discover our selection of red wines , white wines and rosé wines from our beautiful wine regions of France . Are you more of a wine from Provence , Côtes-du-Rhône , Languedoc Roussillon , Bordeaux , Vaucluse or the Mediterranean ?