The 2018 grape harvest Cutting-edge initiatives meet ancestral tradition in vineyards across France27-09-2018
The harvest is well underway in French vineyards and is set to continue until the end of September. And initial feedback from growers points to a great quality vintage. While we wait for the harvest to come to a close, read on for a quick round-up of the latest harvesting initiatives around France for the 2018 vintage.
Greater Paris joins in the harvest
As surprising as it may sound, vineyards have even taken root in and around Paris, France’s most densely populated city. In Yerres, only 25km south of Paris, answering an announcement from the “Grappe Yerroise” – the association tasked with all things wine related – 50 volunteers came to snip the first grapes at Clos de Bellevue vineyard. Vines were planted here in 2011, reviving an age-old tradition dating back to the 18th century, when almost 500 hectares of vines were listed. The return of the harvest is a fitting way to pay tribute to the Yerres coat of arms on which a bunch of grapes proudly features.
Vines also flourish in Paris itself, and the vineyards in Montmartre are among the most famous. From 10-14 October 2018, check out Paris’s annual Grape Harvest Festival, the Fetes de Vendanges, in the 18th arondissement. Taking on a different theme every year, this year’s 85th celebrations will focus on Peace. Hot on the heels of the Nuit Blanche art night and Paris Plages beaches along the Seine, the grape harvest festival in Clos Montmartre is the third most popular event in Paris, and has been celebrated since 1934. Amid 5 days of popular celebrations showcasing the very best of France’s foods and wines, a packed programme of events, including exhibitions, live entertainment, music, parades and dancing, make this weekend one of Paris’s most prized.
In Alsace, the “green brigade” protect the vines
On the slopes of Soultz-Haut-Rhin in the Alsace vineyards, a green brigade patrols the vine rows on horseback to combat grape bunch theft and crime during the grape harvest. Pacing the vineyards from dawn to dusk to deter crimes against grapes, and actively present since 1989 here in the Haut-Rhin, they have made crime in the vines a thing of the past. Meanwhile, over in Burgundy, there’s hope for prisons yet. A scheme is being trialled at Varennes-le-Grand prison, enabling three detainees to take part in the annual grape harvest in Rully, Saone-et-Loire. This reintegration programme was the initiative of three prison officers and the willing consent of the prisoners, in a bid to break the monotony of daily life in prison. It is part of a wider rehabilitation and re-integration programme, which is a first in France in this area.
Côte-d’Or – the golden age of traditional harvesting
In the upper slopes of Pernand-Vergelesses in Cote-d’Or, pickers from Domaine Pavelot are harvesting grapes at Corton-Charlemagne, a legendary grand cru. So what is so special about these vineyards? Essentially it is a return to the good old days, where grapes were hand-picked and placed in traditional willow harvesting baskets. The family estate, which produces organic red and white wine, is one of the last remaining few to still use these methods. Aside from the traditional appeal, the grapes avoid crushing when stacked, and in addition, the willow baskets allow air to circulate freely around the grapes. The image of a man carrying a basket has become the emblem of the estate, and proudly features on every wine produced here.