Ah, the fall harvest and those voluptuous little grapes.
The fruits of long labor and the beginning of something exquisite. From mid-September 'til early October, my dear friends in Champagne painstakingly study the vineyards, night and day ~ all to capture those goddess-like treasures at the precise moment of perfection.
A fine art not a science. God bless the vingerons!
The oh-so charming, Jean-Hervé Chiquet, proprietor of the famed House of Jacquesson, tells us about their 2012 Harvest.
H: What do you love most about harvest?
JHC: When it’s a super vintage and it’s over! More seriously, it’s Mother Nature’s gift after one year of hard work but it’s also when every single gesture is so important; you have to be quick and precise to extract all the potential of the vintage.
H: Do you have any special harvest traditions?
JHC: The main one is the big barbecue at the end. (More about that below mes amis.)
H: How do you decide what date to start the harvest? For chardonnay grapes? For Pinot noir?
JHC: By checking the ripeness everyday and tasting the grapes: it’s a mix of analysis and feeling.
H: What is different about harvest this year?
JHC: Horrible weather during most of the year brought a difficult flowering and a lot of mildew, so it’s a small crop and many bunches don’t look healthy. But the weather has been good for the past few weeks letting us expect a tiny but very good vintage
H: Do you work around the clock during Harvest? Get any sleep?
JHC: Not really around the clock but the days are pretty long. And you need some sleep to work properly over two weeks: working fast is not enough.
H: Tell us about the Riots of 2011 and how that changed the course of history for your family?
JHC: No such things in France last year, fortunately. But you mean the Riots of 1911 of course! No idea of what really happened; even my grand-parents were too young to really remember.
H: How long is it from picking the grapes until we get to pop the cork?
JHC: Four years minimum for the Cuvée 700, nine years minimum for the single vineyards, 15 years or more for the late disgorged vintages
H: If you could only choose one of your treasures to serve at a dinner this Fall which would it be and why?
JHC: Dizy Corne Bautray 2002 because it’s a very good example of a great terroir in a superb vintage, associating ripeness, depth and minerality and because it’s one of the best match with oysters you can think about. And I love oysters!
H: How do you celebrate when harvest is over?
JHC: Inviting all the pickers, all the staff, wives and husbands, to a huge barbecue at Jacquesson with some good bottles of wine.
H: Jacquesson is described by wine critics as "the Connoisseur's Champagne". If you had to pick one reason, (among the many), what makes that true?
JHC: Our absolute dedication to the best viticulture possible.