Harvest time is reminiscent of the Bjork song ‘It’s oh so quiet’. For eleven months of the year Champagne is quiet and also very ‘peaceful, until’, as Bjork so famously wrote ‘Zing boom’. Bjork of course wrote about the cycle of falling in love and yet the parallels with grape growing are pretty similar, it’s a labour of love after all.
At the ‘Zing Boom’ moment, thousands (actually around 100,000) people descend on the region. Pickers are needed most and also pairs of hands to load the heavy boxes of grapes onto trucks, drivers to take the grapes to the winery, extra staff to work on the press and in the tank rooms and cooks to feed them all! All this happens in the space of around 2-3 weeks.
Some facts and figures…
- There are over 80,000 acres of vines in Champagne
- An acre is roughly three quarters the size of a football pitch so that’s around 60,000 football pitches of vines to pick.
- Approximately 400 million kilos of grapes are harvested each year.
Drive through some Champagne villages the rest of the year and you could be forgiven for expecting to see tumbleweed blow down the streets. At harvest time they waken up and every available vehicle is harnessed to take the grapes to the presses. There is a fantastic buzz across the region and trepidation too as winemakers scurry into their labs with baskets of grapes to determine the optimum time to pick their crop. Hours can make a difference, wait and if it rains heavily the grapes can be spoiled and if the sun shines and the sugar level creeps up the pickers will be begged to work even more quickly!
Here are some images that tell that story.
…and some links in case you want to read more.
…and what of the 2016 harvest is it a thumbs up or down? The growers we have spoken to say quantity is down on previous years but quality is good.
We’ll give Jean-Paul the last word, he’s seen many harvests. He told us he’d consulted his records and the grapes were very similar in sugar and other characteristics to 1999 which was a vintage year for some houses. He said we will truly know how good 2016 turns out to be in about twenty years time… Cheers Jean-Paul!