Sep 24, 2012

Burgundy Harvest Report 3 - September 23

Welcome to the best upper and lower back training session in the world, grape harvest in Burgundy. Not only do you get in great physical condition working here for 1.5 weeks, you do the exercise in the most outstanding of surroundings, in (or looking over) grand cru vineyards in Cote de Nuits.

On the vineyard you work either as cutter or a carrier. If you are a cutter, your job is to select only good grapes to your 6kg basket, i.e. cutting out the bad ones from the grape bunches to be sent to the winery. Basically you are constantly bending your lower back, kneeling down or sitting in a squat position for 8 hours each day. Needless to say, it is especially strenuous on your lower back.

If you would like to exercise your upper back, then be a carrier. As a carrier, you carry a basket holder on your back which is  specifically designed for this purpose, weighing some 5 kg empty. And your basket is filled every 4 minutes by 4 or 5 cutters, each throwing you 5-6 kilos of grapes (total 23 kg) which you then walk from the vineyard to the road where the tractor waits, i.e. on average 150m. So you either walk with 5 kg or 28 kg on your back for 8 hours a day. I can personally guarantee you this is a much better workout than your average gym workout.

Drouhin-Laroze places great emphasis on gentle handling of grapes at the harvest before destemming. Using only small 23 kg baskets, grapes are not kept under significant weight, i.e. they are not crushed already in the vineyard unlike in larger baskets used by certain other producers. If grapes are placed under too heavy weight and are crushed, there is a risk that yeasts and micribes on top of grape skin begin to react with grape juice, allowing fermentation to begin too early and not in a controlled environment. Intact grapes where grape juice is kept within the skins allows the wine maker to control the process and eliminate unwanted chemical reactions which might lead to unwanted off-flavours in the wine.

No rain after yesterday morning. Grapes were dry and the sun came out in the afternoon after a cloudy morning. We continued with Village wines in the morning while Premier crus were picked in the afternoon. Better quality in the premier crus. Drouhin-Laroze owns vines among Gevrey-Chanbertin's premier cru sites of the Craipillot, Au Closeau, Clos Prieur and Lavaut St. Jacques (most other domains write that Lavaux St, Jacques by the way).

Tomorrow we will collect white grapes for the Drouhin family's daughter Caroline's negotiant wines. It will only be a half day tomorrow, we will work only until lunch.

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