O'Vineyards Harvest in the South of France

After seeing all the interest in how Chateau Margaux brings in the harvest, it occurred to me that I haven’t really talked about our own harvest intake. So without further ado, this is how we harvest at O’Vineyards … plus all done with pictures taken by a friendly tourist during our 2010 harvest!

It starts with grapes ready for harvest:
grapes on the vine

Then somebody picks those grapes and puts them in a bucket. And eventually that bucket gets dumped into a fruit crate.

Merlot harvested in fruit case

Those fruite cases are brought back to the winery where my dad slowly feeds the fruit into a destemmer.

harvest intake at o'vineyards

The destemmer consists of a large cylinder with a vice in its center. The cylinder has holes that let grapes through but generally don’t let stems through. The vice has arms that turn and pop the grapes off their stems.

inside of destemmer

Then the destemmer drops the grapes onto a vibrating sorting table. The grapes bounce down the table where my mom, our brave tourists, and I pick out any snails, stems or leaves that made it into the fruit crates.

grape sorting table

At the end of the sorting table, the grapes drop off into a conveyor belt that lifts them to the top of the fermentation tanks.

end of sorting table

elevateur a o'vineyards vendange

The grapes start their maceration and fermentation in the tank. There are a lot of whole berries and a lot of berries are slightly crushed by the fall into the tank and the weight of the grapes above them.

merlot at o'vineyards fermentation tank

Big thanks for these awesome photos. They were all taken by Jeremy and his friends who showed up unannounced on our first day of harvest so it is super authentic. No Hollywood mock ups or mise en scene. We were very happy to kick of harvest with them and I hope you enjoy a blow-by-blow photo journey through an O’Vineyards harvest in the south of France.

While this blog can sometimes go on tangents based on my strange, exploratory moods, it is still a winemaker blog.  And it is late September which means HARVEST in the south of France.  So here it is, my first obligatory vineyard harvest of 2010.

Merlot grapes at 2010 harvest

We’re starting with the Merlot, as usual.  It’s all by hand this year because we’re worried about the disparity between maturity levels of the grapes this year.

joe harvesting at O'Vineyards

I’ll be posting about the particularities of this year’s vintage.  But for now, just pictures of Merlot being harvested … with a vengeance!!

merlot on sorting table

merlot  at 2010 harvest at O'Vineyards

Harvest is right around the corner at O’Vineyards.  I mean that literally.  If you walk past the corners of our property, you’ll be surrounded by harvesters.

We aren’t harvesting yet.  The grapes just aren’t ready here.  In several days, they will be.  But not today.

Why are the nearby neighbors harvesting?  Different philosophies.  Waiting for that last bit of maturity is relatively risky.  A sudden and heavy rain could lead to watery grapes and grey rot.  Additionally, rain could muddy up the vineyard and make it very hard to pass through and machine harvest.  Alternatively, no rain is almost worse for the guys who sell by the kilo.  As the grapes ripen in the next seven days, they are likely to lose water weight and start to shrivel up just a tiny bit.  When you see a single grape shrivel, you can assume that you’ve lost a huge amount of juice.

With these risks, why does O’Vineyards wait?  Well, we don’t mind losing juice if it means that the grapes will have that extra level of ripeness.  You can harvest now and get good grapes.  But if you wait just a tiny bit longer, you’ll get great grapes.

But we get anxious waiting and preparing.  We’re cleaning all the equipment and moving wine around so that there’s enough space to bring in this year’s 100% hand harvest.  There aren’t a lot of cool movies to film.  I’m basically just cleaning stuff.  But here is a picture just to show you even the boring parts of my life have a beautiful vineyard backdrop.

cleaning cagettes before harvest at O'Vineyards

A new facet of this year’s preharvest anticipation is how jealous I am of everybody who is started or done with their harvest (n.b. these people are in microclimates that harvested earlier this year and escape my obvservations regarding the nearby neighbors mentioned above).  My web efforts have brought me much closer to a lot of estates in the Languedoc-Roussillon and around the rest of the world.  And a lot more people are bringing the harvests online.

It’s oddly distressing to have to watch all these harvests progressing just an hour’s drive away from here.  But it’s okay.  We can form a club of late bloomers.  The tardives climates.  The medium to high altitude vineyards.  I was commiserating with Castelmaure high up in the Corbieres who look like they’ll start even later than me.  I think most of the work getting done so far in the Cabardes estates is limited to white grapes (which aren’t actually included in the classification).

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
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North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.