Our First Harvest – Pursuing grapes, bees, birds, mildew and rot

We were given the go ahead to work on our vineyard in September, right in the middle of harvest time. Talk about thrown in the deep end. But the plus side is from the get go we would know what we were dealing with, which would then highlight what the priorities would be in the vineyard in the next year, as well as what would be needed in the winery.

So what types of grapes did our vineyard have? Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic combination for a sparkling wine. A fairly even split between the three over the 1.5 hectares. However, the Chardonnay were in very, very bad condition, with many vines dead or not yielding, and almost no foliage. In the end we only harvested a bucket full.

The Pinots were in slightly better condition and had more fruit, but still were suffering the ravages of mildew and rot. As we harvested we had to throw away a good third of the grapes.

There was also a very real question of when to harvest. Much of the fruit really needed to stay on the vine to ripen more, but since a good portion of it was rotting and this could spread, as well it was attracting flocks of birds and bees wanting to eat the fruit. On top of this, the dry, sunny weather we had had all summer had decided to change to rain. It made it quite a difficult decision of when would be best to bring in the grapes.

In the end we did it in stages. We harvested the Chardonnay first, since there was so little and we simply did not want to lose more of it. Also, with so little foliage it was not really going to ripen any further. We also harvested a little of the Pinot Noir since it was in the best condition and one corner of the vineyard had ripened very well.

We then set up scarecrows to fend off the birds and tensely waited, watching the weather, watching for more rot, watching for ripening. In the end we didn’t really get our window of sunshine and decided to harvest most of the grapes sooner rather than later.

It wasn’t much of a harvest, but it was ours, our first, and hopefully our worst  ~ a rather weird thing to say, but we have great hopes that things can only get better in the vineyard.

Now it was on to make some wine…

(If you would like to read how we went about finding this vineyard, you’ll find the back story in: Finding a Vineyard in Burgundy, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)


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