“The covered yard rang with the sound of voices, wheels, heavily-shod footsteps, as the estate’s forty grape-pickers were going down for their meal, accompanied by their robust, winey odour. I would really have liked to follow them.” Colette, during the 1947 grape harvesting at Château Thivin
In September, the Château Thivin courtyard is filled with footsteps and song — this is the start of the finest season: the grape harvest. Plot by plot, the vines are lightened of their sun-drenched fruit, cut by nimble hands using a sickle, before being transported to the cellar, where the alchemy of fermentation will begin.
At Château Thivin, the grapes are exclusively picked by hand, usually around mid-September by forty or so grape-pickers who are lodged and fed at Château Thivin for 14–20 days. In a lively atmosphere, this is a festive time for these young people who come from the four corners of France and of the whole world to help us; but for the wine-grower, it’s an intense moment: the result of a year of labour and a crucial moment in the production of a wine that will be the reflection of the region, the terroir, and the year.
The choice of the date for the grape harvest is of paramount importance for the quality of the future wine. We look for the perfect balance between sugar, acidity, and phenolic and aromatic ripeness.
In early to mid August, we start checking the ripeness on all our plots. This involves checking the health of the vines, the taste of the grapes and pips, but also analysing the sugar and acidity in order to follow the development of the ripeness on each plot and to anticipate as closely as possible the ideal date for picking.
The first sorting is done by our pickers on the vines themselves, then the grapes are sorted a second time on a vibrating sorting table, which eliminates insects and allows meticulous sorting so that only perfectly ripe, healthy grapes go on to be vinified.