September 15, 2014

Harvest Begins in Beaujolais

We saw the sun coming up on our way down to Beaujolais for the first day of harvest.

Mists filled the valleys below the granitic hillsides as we arrived at the winery and

vineyard in Fleurie. The harvesters were hard at work clipping clusters of Gamay

grapes from beautiful, old gobelet trained vines. Gamay berries are larger than Pinot

noir and look a bit like gumballs—very tasty for popping in one’s mouth while waiting

for the first loads of grapes to come into the winery. The harvesters were divided into

“coupeurs” or those cutting the grapes, and “porteurs” who collected clusters in their

“hottes” or large, basket-like backpacks, from the “coupeurs” and launched the contents

into the picking bins pulled by the tractor. Quite exciting to watch.

Beaujolais is often fermented with whole clusters, but in this case we processed the fruit

much like the Pinot noir back in Volnay: using a sorting table in the winery, destemming,

then up the “giraffe” or elevator and into the cement fermentation tank. At 9:30 we

had “casse-croute” and enjoyed croissants, white wine, chocolate, cheeses and bread.

I cannot remember the last time I had two glasses of wine before 10:00 a.m., but I

will say that it did make the hard labor much easier. At noon we had a multicourse

luncheon with coq-au-vin, potatoes au gratin, red wine and white wines, cheeses,

bread, and a delicious fruit tart for dessert. By the end of the day we had two cement

fermeters full of fruit from Fleurie and Chiroubles, two of the Beaujolais crus. The work

day was from 6:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., but the time passed quite quickly and I was

already looking forward to starting the main harvest in Volnay on Wednesday as I drifted

off to sleep.

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