Yesterday, a rumbling noise grabbed my attention from a neighbouring field and looking into the distance I saw a harvesting machine working away. I walked up to get a closer look and had a chat with some of the men who were there whilst the machine continued its rumbling. I passed the initiation test by correctly identifying the grapes being harvested as Syrah (the trellis was the key clue) and they told me about the machine and how its harvest would go the local co-operative. The machine is huge yet turns in a tight circle at the end of a row, it shakes the vines as it passes over them and sucks up the grapes before being loaded into trailers to be taken away.
Now my instinct tells me that machines are not the right thing because of shaking vines and gobbling up rotten or under ripe grapes along with the good ones. Yet these vignerons were dedicated and want to create good wines and for some this is the only financially viable approach to harvesting. It is certainly not the romantic wine harvest that I imagine but it is effective.
Next week I shall find out for myself as I am going to be joining my friend Jeff Coutelou for a bit of picking by hand. Am I ready for this??
Meanwhile the machines rumble on.
September 6, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Great to see another Languedoc centric wine blog.
I was told last year that the more modern and fancy harvesting machines can be programmed to do optical sorting and eject under ripe grapes along with those that don’t maintain a grape shape (because they are rotten).
September 7, 2014 at 10:15 am
Yes Graham so I understand. I was talking on Thursday to the winemaker from the Chateau London project of Roberson Wines. He was collecting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Jeff and I told him about the machines. I suppose it’s my natural position to be sceptical of big machines etc but he was telling me about the newer ones having sophisticated sorting equipment. To be fair they also left the vines intact pretty much whereas the ones I saw years ago used to strip them of foliage as well as grapes. Overcoming my prejudice and assumption is one of the goals of my year.
Thanks for the welcome. Hopefully we can be mutually beneficial.