We kicked off the 2014 harvest at Bauduc last week by picking some white grapes by hand. These were from young Sémillon vines that we planted exactly ten years ago.
The most effective way to harvest white bunches by hand is to cut and sort them into small, stackable crates called cagettes. I say ’sort’ although what we really mean by this is to cut out any ugly, mouldy bits. This process is used by many of the leading Bordeaux chateaux nowadays for their reds, with many having switched to using cagettes in the last few years.
The advantage with stackable crates is that the bunches don’t get crushed, so the grapes stay intact and the juice doesn’t oxidise. You don’t want a soupy trailer full of grapes and juice warming up under a midday sun. And since the beginning of September it has been sunny and, mostly, pretty hot.
With the brilliant Nelly and Daniel ‘Ramone’. 2014 is our 16th harvest together.
We have a small team of around 16 pickers and four porters, in addition to Daniel, Nelly and me. For the mornings only mind, as the afternoons are too hot to harvest – not for the team, but for the grapes. Freshness is the key.
Setting out the cagettes at the start
You have to watch out where your colleague’s snipping
Removing any nasty bits
A second check by the trailer
It’s hard work being a porter
Our old friend and neighbour is one of the quickest
The team appreciate the water
Clear blue skies – and hot work
A long way up
You can’t leave them out for lomg in this weather
The last 15 days have proved crucial to ripening the grapes
Nelly double checking bunches on the trailer
They’re easy to stack, once you get the hang of it
The rows are 1.80 metres wide, with 5500 vines per hectare
Hugo and Nelly do a last check of bunches
Snipping out the less than perfect bits
Fresh grapes, neatly stacked
Straight from the vines
Slow drive, making sure we don’t drop any baskets
Porters can lug 2 or 3 crates, if stacked well
Smarter nails than required for this
The secateurs are sharp. 3 pickers had cuts
Checking the bunches
Dropping the bunch into the cagette
You need a lot of spare crates
Three tractors are required for the trips to the winery
Lovely Sémillon, straight from the vine
Hugo makes sure nothing drops off
Backing into the winery
Hugo and the grapes
Nelly loads up the press
Whole bunch pressing
The press held over 250 crates of grapes
Waiting to go in the press
Excess crates left in the cool cellar, awaiting the press