I joined a friend, Wilfried, to help with the grape-picking at Domaine de Bellevue, and from now on will be following the annual cycle of work on this organic vineyard on the blog.
Bellevue has three-quarters of a hectare of chardonnay grapes. This consists of 20 rows of vines, and in a morning we picked four rows. The yield was good and the estimate favourable: probably about 900 kg from 4 rows, and so the target was that production of Chardonnay this year should total 4 tonnes, with which Ief and Rene, the owners, were well-satisfied.
Picking of the Chardonnay is all done by hand. The clusters of Chardonnay grapes are incredibly compact. With a complicated system of trellising ,to protect the grapes from the fierce winds roundabout this area, sometimes the picking is difficult, particularly of the clusters nearest the posts. We used hand secateurs, and the grapes go into plastic “paniers”. Each row’s produce is then collected and loaded in the van for transport to the winery. We had about 6 pickers per row, so the work went quite rapidly.
As always vignerons seem to be confronted by the unexpected. Halfway through the morning we learned that the cold-store at the winery had broken down. Thus the grapes would have to be transported to a temporary cold-store, to be held overnight, by the helpful local egg producer! So problem overcome, but an anxiety the owners could have done without.
Rene Didde, the vigneron, and Wilfried Kocken, picking the Chardonnay