Le temps des vendanges en Champagne
For the uninitiated, it can be easy to view the Champagne-making world as endlessly glamorous and fashionable. While there certainly is that side to it, at its heart it’s a farming job. Winemakers are at the mercy of the seasons and nature, which means things can go wrong in an instant.
After France’s exceptional 2018 vintage, what does this year’s harvest hold in store?
The harvest period may be fraught with hard-work and at times adverse weather conditions, but it’s also a very special time of year. It’s the only time when the whole family is together. For Jean Boucton Champagne, that means even those who aren’t involved in the family business lend a hand.
Days begin early at around 7 am with a meeting at the ‘vendangeoirs’, or literally, ‘the harvest place.’ From here the team of harvesters head out into the vineyards, a mix of family, friends and local seasonal workers.
Around 9 am the harvesters will hear the welcome call, le ‘casse croute’, or breakfast break. But this isn’t your average breakfast. In almost ceremonial-like style harvesters will stop picking and place their baskets on the floor. In lieu of a breakfast table the door of an old chariot is used, it’s the same one that’s been used for as long as we can remember. Makeshift table
legs come in the form of large, sturdy grape cases. Then it’s on to dressing the table with glasses, cutlery, and most importantly, the food. Fresh bread, cheeses, and charcuterie are piled high and washed down with black coffee. There’s a box of candies for afters, then it’s back to the harvest.
After a morning of hard work its back to the vendangeoir for lunch around 12 pm. Harvesters are greeted with a small aperitif and then it’s time to eat. The dishes are simple French fare but suitably hearty. Lunch is followed by a quick coffee, then it’s back to the fields around 1:30 pm for a long afternoon of work.
Once the grapes have been picked they are stored in cases and transported to the cellars to be pressed.
The same regimented attention is applied to turning grapes into wine.
In Champagne winemakers can only pick a limited amount of grapes per hectare (‘appellation’), then everything is organised according to its type and terroir.
After it’s sorted it’s pressed into a unit of juice called the marc, 4000kgs of grapes. The first press is called the Cuvee and is the best juice, which is used in higher quality champagnes.
In all Jean Boucton Champagne’s, Cuvee Chardonnay is a large part of the blend, and it’s distinctly fresh and elegant.
Jean Boucton Cuvee Blanc de Blancs is the house’s signature champagne and has been served at exclusive cocktail parties and events like Polo in Windsor.
There’s a feeling of comradery and energy in the fields, the village, and even the entire region during harvest time. The end of the day is signalled by an aperitif at the vendangeoir, giving harvesters the chance to catch up with family and go to the cellars to try the freshly pressed juice.
Work started on the mid September. Expectations are high for this years harvest. Conditions have been challenging as in other part of France but don’t rule out a vintage year…