Posted: 16 Sep 2010 03:28 AM PDT
Two weeks ago my neighbour, Madame Dorigny, asked if I wanted to pop round and pick a few plums from her garden. She said she'd already picked all she wanted and the rest would just rot if someone didn't take them.
I managed to get a bucket full of lovely plums.They were really ripe – almost too ripe – and I was amazed to see so much more fruit rotting on the branches, whilst on the ground was a sticky mess where the plums had already fallen off and were turning mushy and gooey.
I didn't fully realise what this meant for the grapes in the vineyards until yesterday (Wednesday 15th)
It was raining heavily again early in the morning and I hoped that the pickers had got their waterproof clothes ready.
Fortunately, as the day unfolded the sun came out and the rain moved on. Rain really is the last thing we need at the moment and in the afternoon when I went to see how the harvest is going in Villers-Marmery, I understood why.
You may remember from reading an earlier post that, back in the middle of August, over 100 mm of rain fell in just two days – that's a huge amount and more than the grapes could cope with, but it wasn't so much the rainfall in those two days that caused the problem but rather what fell later in the normal pattern of things.
The August downpour plumped up the grapes and pretty much filled them to capacity, so when more rain fell in the following weeks, even though it was nothing exceptional, some of the grapes just started to burst.
To make things worse, a few months ago there was an attack of a vineyard fungus called oidium which weakens the vine and tends to make the grape skins thin: all the more susceptible to bursting.
When that happens a number of other things can happen too
First rot ( botrytis) can set and we've seen plenty of that in this year's harvest
There's a trail of juice leaking all over the road leaving a sticky path all along the tarmac, just like in Madame Dorigny's garden
As the grapes are piled into the collecting cases this just gets worse and, particularly in the case of black grapes, can lead to the juice being stained by the pigment in the skins- a definite "No No" if you're making clear white champagne.
All this means that there's even more need than usual to get the grapes harvested and pressed with the minimum of delay, so it's up with the dawn and working till late, sometimes as late as 11.00 p.m
Coming up in the next few posts:
What does all this rain mean for the quality and size of the harvest? Well, it's not all bad news.
What happens to the grapes after they are picked ? All will be revealed
Meanwhile if you're fascinated by champagne and want to really get to know about it then you'll certainly want to Meet MONICA
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