Friday, September 25, 2009

Harvest Time

The grape harvest started a few weeks ago. It was earlier than normal this year due to the odd weather conditions. We learned that spring was quite wet, but the summer months were dryer than normal. I assume that this is going to lower the yield on this years' crop. Expect your 2009 vintage Côte du Rhône wines to be more expensive, due to scarcity.

Nevertheless, the harvest continues. It doesn't just happen over a long weekend. Despite the introduction of mechanized harvesting machines, it takes time to pick all of the fields. Apparently, the new equipment is only a few decades old and just recently perfected. I cannot fathom how long it must have taken to harvest the grapes by hand. They must have needed thousands of laborers. Seems a little anti-socialist to remove so many jobs, doesn't it (see, the French are just like the Americans. No one wants to do the dirty work, and they don't like their immigrant workers either :(

The grape picking machines can hold about two tons before having to unload. The wagons are then pulled by tractor to the local cave-cooperative. At the cave, the grape varieties are stored in separate bins and then processed automatically. No grape stomping here either. Wine production is big business, and the technology applied is equivalent to the factory farms back home.

When you visit a local cave for a wine-tasting, you might have the opportunity to peek back into the work room. Don't expect to see the mashers sitting on the floor though. Much of the process actually takes place in the basement, allowing for easier delivery from the grape haulers.

The Appellation Contrôlée claims to monitor the growing and processing of the grapes for strict adherence to the tradition of making wine in the region. I wonder how seriously that can be taken given the noticeable recent advances in technology. In any case, the taste of the wine is not diminished by the robotic touch. The popularity of wine is as high as ever.
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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.