The 2011 grape harvest is now underway in around 80 per cent of France.  And although early harvests are not completely unknown, this year’s will certainly have the historians studying it with interest.  Even those grapes destined for sparkling wines, including champagne, have begun in August, a rare event indeed.

Harvest on the farm of makers, in the 1960 s

The vineyards of Cognac should begin towards the end of this week.  For the best eaux-de-vie, the grape juice needs to be on the acidic side, with a potential alcohol content of around 9.5o.  And of course, the yield for cognac is also important.

In the main, apart from cognac, it is just now the reds that are still waiting to begin.  Of course, the weather over the next couple of weeks will be crucial to the yield, but so far it seems that the gods are smiling and the forecast so far is for mainly sunshine.  The main danger right now is for outbreaks of rot, especially a worry as the vineyard owners may have held back on expensive treatments as a cost cutting method.

Wonderful Wine Harvest: Fingers Crossed for a Great Result

The yield that was estimated by the department of agriculture earlier in the month was for a total of 47.9 million hectolitres of wine.  If that’s reached it show a 2 per cent increase over the past 5 years, and a marked increase on the low yield of 2010.  But of course, the weather is fickle and could still change all this.

It’s believed that only Champagne and Languedoc Roussillon regions will have yields lower than 2010.

A friend-producer writes us:

“Harvest is existing and joyful time. It’s the result of a whole year of work.It’s a intensive period of physical and fatiguing work where lot of decisions have to be taken quickly and accuracy. The expression of all the “savoir-faire” of the winegrower. And it’s particularly true where you product Cognac but also Pineau des Charentes, wines and grape juices. Each product need specific attention.

Perhaps because Cognac is distilled and long ageing, we generally not consider harvest period as a so important phase (contrary to distillation, and possibly because large part of Cognac communication is made by merchant and houses who are not very involved with this part). But it’s really the main part of Cognac making. A moment of intense feelings with special odors of wine in all villages (fermenting of Ugni-Blanc express a so nice fragrance of brioche, while Folle Blanche, Colombar or Sauvignon – which provide much good wines – don’t smell as good during this phase), special sound of harvesting machines and wine pumps in cellars, special atmosphere and mood of each one: joy with hint of anxiety until the end! Well… Fantastic moment!”


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Wonderful Wine Harvest: Fingers Crossed for a Great Result

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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