“The caliber of any wine rests upon the quality of the grapes and their maturity at harvest”. E. Peynaud, 1970.

The harvest in Chateauneuf du Pape takes place in September and continues perhaps until early October.
Harvest time is a wonderfully exciting time, where the fruit of hard work in the vineyards pays off, but even if all the works has been done in an optimal way and with perfect weather conditions it can still be spoiled if the weather makes problems during harvest and makes it impossible to harvest when the grapes have reached their optimum maturity.
Such a catastrofic situation happened in 2002 where many producers discarded all the yield or sold at least part of it to negociants.

Many wine growers has great experience in determing maturity just by tasting the grapes but to be sure of optimum maturity many analysis are taken not only to know the content of sugar but also more hidden qualities in the grapes such as acid, tannins and solids in the grapes bringing colour, aroma and wanted elements in the taste.
The big estates have a laboratory of their own, others bring their samples to an oenolog's laboratory or to the laboratory of Maison du Vins.

All the harvest is picked by hand and the bunches collected in small buckets are frequently brought to the cellar to avoid heating. On some estates the pickers have two buckets one for the finest grapes and one for bunches to be used for rāpe, the part of the harvest which according to the rules have to be discarted and perhaps used for Vin du Table. 
The sorting of the grapes continues on sorting tables, when the grapes arrive to the cellar.

The white grapes normally matures before the red grapes and some red varieties matures before others. At Beaucastel was the order in 2004: Roussanne, Picardan, Grenache Blanc, Muscardin, Cinsault, Terret Noir, Vaccarese, Clairette, Syrah, Grenache, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, Mourvedre. The harvest 2004 started 9 September and was finished 8 October.

At big estates as Beaucastel the harvest team can be up to 90 pickers. On the smaller estates it's done by family members and friends of the family. As a tourist it can be fascinating to discover the atmosphere at harvest, but it can of course be difficult for the wine growers to spare time for the tourist in the hectic period of harvest.

It's an old tradition in Chateauneuf du Pape as in several other wine areas that the start of harvest is announced by an official ceremonial occation: "Le Ban des Vendanges". Years ago it was not not allowed to start the harvest of red grapes before the starting day was announced. Today it's a ceremonial event. During the years this date has been moved from late September to the beginning of September. Scientists studying weather and climate use information about the start of harvest in their science. Below you can see a figure from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique showing start of harvest 1945 - 2000. 


Pickers at Chateau de Beaucastel

Harvest at Domaine la Barroche 2014. Photo: video from Vimeo

Ban des Vendanges Chateauneuf du Pape 2013
From the left: Bruno le Roy, president of the federation, Mr NN, Claire Fabre Vieux Donjon, chosen as a young wine grower to read the declaration, Catherine Armenier, president of the ODG and Pierre Boisson, mayor of Chateauneuf du Pape until 2014

Fin des Vendange 2014 at Domaine de Beaurenard

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