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When to Harvest

I met with Etienne Grivot earlier this week to discuss his approach to deciding the date of harvest. One thing that is remarkable to me is that he uses no technical analysis of his fruit in deciding when to harvest. I pressed the point two or three times.

He is convinced that you can’t take samples that are representative of a vineyard. The only way you could truly do this would be to sample from each vine, which is practically-speaking impossible. His general guideline is the date of flowering. Harvest is roughly 100 days later. There are a number of factors but primarily he tastes through the vineyards, chews the skins, seeds, looks at how the skins color his saliva. He watches the barometer, temperature. Observes the health of the grapes.

He tries to pick during the waning moon. 100 days landed around August 24th. He waited to start picking until the 4th. Many started picking on the 25th or 26th, Saturday and Sunday. He chose to start on the 4th to ripen the grapes further and to pick with the waning moon. Further, he chose to start picking on a Tuesday to prepare the team, the cuverie, etc. on Monday. He doesn’t like to start on the weekend as each year there is a learning curve. It is better to start slow and steady.

The order of picking is generally the order of quality of the parcels. Thus he starts with the white, then the bourgogne red, the village, etc. Richebourg was picked on the last day, September 10. It was perfect. It hung to achieve 13.4% potential alcohol and a pH of 3.3. There is a general order of picking as I noted but if clouds were on the horizon, the order would shift with the Grand Crus coming in first. Regarding the picking date, he avoids hearing what his neighbors are doing. His decision is made by him and him alone. (This reminds me of wine tasting. I can’t truly evaluate a wine if I hear the judgments of others first.) The last day of picking quality wines was September 10. There was a new moon on the 11th. He finished with some Gamay he sells in bulk.

Regarding 2007, this is a vintage of the vignéron. In 2005, everyone in Vosne made great wine. In 2007 if you farmed right, timed the harvest correctly, there is no reason why you couldn’t have had long hang time, physiological and phenolic ripeness. In fact, without the overripeness found in some of the very hot years, the wines can truly represent their terroir with no lack of density. After exhausting him with questions, we tasted through the 2007’s and the 2006’s gc’s. The Richebourg and Clos Vougeot are quite different. The Richebourg is aristocratic while the Vougeot overtly shows its GC power and spicy character. It’s hard not to like the wine. The Suchot is a stand out as well, wow.

We finished off with a lunch in Chambolle and ran into Bernard Gros there. We had the 02 Echezeaux. Etienne asked me what I thought. I answered, that I thought the food was great. He was referring to the wine!

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