Tout savoir sur la saison des vendanges

Everything you need to know about the harvest season

Generally speaking, the harvest period can begin as early as August and end in October. In fact, the date of picking grape bunches to make wine depends on many criteria, such as the region or the weather. Discover all the secrets of the harvest season .

The harvest: what are we talking about?

We won't teach you anything if we say that the harvest season corresponds to the period when we harvest the grapes before vinifying them into red wine, white wine or rosé wine. But this stage of viticulture is much more complex than that, and it cannot be reduced to the few weeks that the harvesters spend in the vineyards, picking beautiful, juicy berries.

The grape harvest is a crucial stage for the winegrower, because it is the result of a whole year of work in the vines. It is at this precise moment that the winegrower will reap the fruits of his patience and all the attention he has paid to each vine over many months. The harvest date is therefore very important, as is the fruit harvesting technique. The harvester thus has the choice between two harvesting methods:

  • Manual harvesting , in other words, by hand, allows the grapes to be sorted at the time of picking, to keep only the most beautiful fruits for the production of wines;
  • Mechanical harvesting , carried out with a straddler that passes between the rows of vines, allows the grapes to be collected more quickly, which will then be sorted on a sorting table.

What are the harvest dates?

It is difficult to precisely establish a harvest calendar , because the start of the season depends on several criteria and differs depending on the region. In any case, winegrowers are not the only decision-makers, because they must wait for authorization from the prefecture to start harvesting. This is called the harvest ban .

Thus, harvest dates differ depending on the region, particularly for climatic reasons. Indeed, depending on the sunshine, humidity, or even temperature, the maturity of the grapes is not reached at the same time. Logically, harvest bans are granted earlier in the south of France than in the north.

Once the harvest ban has been published, the winegrower is free to choose the date for the start of the harvest, depending on the maturity of the grapes.

How are harvest dates defined?

Traditionally, it is considered that the harvest can begin 100 days after the vines flower , that is to say, after the first flowers appear. But, here again, the maturation process is not the same for all types of grape varieties and all terroirs, and this technique only gives an indication.

The oenologists are then responsible for checking the quality of the grapes, in order to determine the best time to start harvesting them. They are then based on 3 types of fruit maturity :

  • Technological maturity, which will determine the sugar content and acidity of the wine;
  • Phenolic maturity, which will determine the quality of the tannins and color of the wine;
  • Aromatic maturity, which will determine the concentration and quality of the varietal aromas of the wine.

Harvest start dates by wine region

As we have seen, it is difficult to precisely determine the ideal time to harvest . This is even more true in recent years, where exceptional drought and lack of water have disrupted the grape ripening cycle. However, we note a chronology of harvests in the wine-growing regions of France:

  • End of August: Corsica, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence;
  • Early September: Beaujolais and Rhône Valley;
  • Mid-September: Burgundy, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Jura, Savoie, Bugey, South-West, Center;
  • End of September: Alsace, Champagne;
  • Early October: Charentes, Cognac, Lorraine.

Good to know: classic harvests must be distinguished from late harvests, for which the harvest date will be later in the fall.

How long does the harvest last?

Many young people have tried the harvest experience. This is an opportunity to earn money while enjoying large, friendly tables and lively evenings. But the harvest was also long hours spent at the foot of the vines, in full sun. So, grape pickers are often happy to learn that the harvest period only lasts 8 to 15 days .

Of course, this depends on the vineyard areas to be harvested and the harvesting techniques. Mechanical harvesting is faster than manual harvesting. Furthermore, more and more winegrowers are choosing to harvest at night , before the sun rises. If the pickers see this as a definite advantage for their working conditions, the objective is above all to harvest the grapes cool, because they quickly weaken under the effect of the heat.

The harvest is a crucial stage in wine making, and the start date must be carefully considered to ensure the quality and maturity of the berries. To find out more about the harvest , go to the Domaine de Berne vineyard.

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