caliber of any wine rests upon the quality of the grapes and their maturity at
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
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 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
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
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.