The white harvest begins – a photo journal

The white harvest begins – a photo journal

Posted by Gavin Quinney on 31st Aug 2023

Not so much a monthly review, given there’s been a lot of activity in the last week. It is, in fact, the start of our 25th harvest at Bauduc. We’re not celebrating 25 years just yet – our first full season in charge of the vines was 2000 – but we moved into the farmhouse at the end of August in 1999 and helped to bring in the crop we’d acquired that was already on the vines, albeit with the formalities to be completed some months later.

Fast forward and we’ve put the amount of 6-bottle cases of each wine we’re holding in London City Bond on the website. That’s to show the precise stock at the ‘old’ price before duty went up by over 50p a bottle on 1 August, because we pre-paid the duty at the old rate. We’ll increase the prices once these cases run out.

All the best

Gavin & Angela Quinney

Our 25th harvest together. Daniel had already been working in the vineyards here for several years when we arrived, and we took Nelly on as a trainee for the 1999 harvest. She stayed on and has been here ever since, thankfully. This was on Monday morning, the first day for 2023.

It’s a large crop for us in 2023, which brings great joy, though it’s the quality that counts. Even the older vines haven’t held back.

If you had a moment to scan through our July review you’ll have seen that I’d written in to The Telegraph to ask for a correction on the nonsense heading they’d put on page 3, and they duly printed one at my request (on page 2). For those growers who haven’t been hit by the dreaded mildew it’s a bountiful harvest, though more on that anon.

The team of pickers and porters brought to us this harvest by Hafid, who's standing in the middle in a white shirt. Hafid worked for us for many years before setting up his staffing agency for vineyards. Though Sandra, on the right, works for us.

Not quite 24 years ago but this was the 2002 harvest, and Daniel still has dark hair to this day remarkably. You’ll notice that the harvesters in this picture are mostly women. Hafid tells me that during the school holidays it’s more difficult for him to employ his ladies as they’re looking after their kids. That’s one impact of climate change and earlier harvests, in August, that we hadn’t considered.

We’re still smiling despite the stresses. A photo from yesterday evening, proving once again, not least to our (grown up) children that I’m crap at taking selfies.

There are several parcels of vines that we look at closely for the start of the harvest. This is the Sémillon that we planted in 2004 which goes into our Crémant, pictured mid-August.

We keep a keen eye on all the Sauvignon Blanc. This block we planted in 2007 – photo from earlier this week.

This is a field of some older vines of Sauvignon Blanc. We don’t get a lot from them but what we do get is very good. Though they can get a bit grouchy.

There’s always much to do before the harvest, not least in the winery.

With the delivery of new French oak barrels there’s the thrill of owning these beautiful, hand crafted objects. And then the invoice arrives.

We test the grapes by gathering a small freezer bag full of them, taken from different bunches and various rows, squashing the contents and taking the juice to the lab at the end of Rue Bauduc, opposite the doctors’ surgery. (It’s all closely linked in France.) More importantly, we taste the grapes. This was Sauvignon Blanc last week.

The weather forecast plays a big part when the grapes are approaching ripeness. What to make of these forecasts? I’ve added Bordeaux as well as Créon our town. The city is only 17 miles away. More extraordinary is the change in temperature – 42ºC last Wednesday in Bordeaux versus 24ºC last Saturday. The coast can often be cooler and as we’re about to start the picking and need to be fresh for it, 31ºC on the beach versus 39ºC at home is tempting.

Having made the harvest arrangements, a late afternoon hop to Le Porge Oçean last Thursday with an evening picnic and a chilled bottle of our Rick Stein rosé seemed appropriate. With Sophie and our young friend Eliza who’d been helping us out for a couple of weeks.

Last Friday, we’d fixed for a team to come in at the last minute to strip the leaves away from the bunches before the harvest. Teddy and his locally-based bunch did a great job. (Hafid was on his way back from holiday in Morocco.)

It was a gloomy, damp morning for a bit of effeuillage, or de-leafing.

It’s a lot of work with these fairly long rows, with each person having to do one side of the row and then the other.

A good job done, and worth doing even if it’s expensive. It’s a personal thing as I have no evidence but I just think it’s better for the pickers to be able to spot if there’s any rot or mould that needs removing from the bunches.

Even a small amount of this kind of rot is not welcome in the juice.

A row of older vines with the leaves around the fruit zone still in place. If there wasn’t any potential sorting to do we’d leave them that way.

A similar row with the leaves around the grapes stripped away prior to harvest. It allows for much easier inspection of the bunches by the pickers, let alone the speed and efficiency.

Another overcast morning and the start of the harvest for our Crémant on Monday.

Not so photogenic but on the upside we’d rather it wasn’t too hot for the bunches of grapes in the baskets. It had reached 40ºC just five days before.

Sandra accompanied by Pavie.

All the bunches are placed into stackable crates, called cagettes.

It helps having the winery so close to the vines. We can use every available tractor.

Each whole bunch of grapes is tipped into the press. It’s known, imaginatively, as ‘whole bunch pressing’.

I’ve got more, um, pressing things to do so it’s Nelly, Daniel and René who perform this task.

Yes, it’s back to organising and handing out the chocolatines (pains au chocolat) to the whole team.

Coffee as well, by Nelly and me, keeps the team motivated.

I’ve been telling myself that since this picture of me and Daniel in 2001.

I also like making sure the quality is up to scratch.

And I do the tours for our cheerful guests in the farmhouse. And any other customers, though I’m loathe to book tastings at this time, in truth. Always open for cellar door sales though, with some advance notice.

To be fair Nelly is just about everywhere.

The weather brightened up after that first morning on Monday as we moved on to the old vines.

A large crop of excellent quality. No, really.

Then, for me, there’s the main job of deciding what to pick and when. Daniel and I have worked with Guy Farge and his son Nathan and their harvesting machines for many years.

So it’s more tasting of the Sauvignon Blanc. Both the older vines…

…and the younger ones. With or without the dog.

Again, it’s good yield and the quality’s excellent. There is absolutely no mould or rot, and they taste delicious.

As regulars know, we like to harvest the Sauvignon Blanc very early in the morning.

We do this with the harvest machine. It has an onboard de-stemmer and sorter.

So this week, we’ve harvested the Sauvignon Blanc from 5am to 7am by machine and had the hand picking team in from 7.30am.

Rubbish photo but you get the picture.

We use these chilled stainless steel vats to macerate the juice with the skins of the Sauvignon Blanc for the day. That’s before we use the press in the evening.

The fifth column from the left is the temperature the trailer arrives at, not the alcohol level. The potential alcohol is the second figure in the fourth column. The second column is the time of the morning – we started at 4am this morning.

If the grapes are in really good condition we think it’s actually better to use the machine early in the day, for freshness, when we‘re going to crush the grapes anyway, and then macerate the juice with the skins. At least, our tests showed those results. Oh, and hand picking is about four times the cost.

A final few images of older white vines with generous crops.

Roll on September. Onwards and upwards.