Posted: 14 Sep 2010 12:51 AM PDT
It was an overcast morning with quite a thick mist in the bottom of the valley but the sun was trying to poke through the clouds and as the day wore on it ended up quite warm.
I spotted one group of pickers - all Polish people as it turned out - already hard at it.
Then I met the vigneron who owned the vines and he said he was relieved to get started. The longer the delay, the worse the rot was likely to get.
It was all caused by a very wet month of August : in one two-day period there were 130 mm of rain. That's a lot by anyone's standards but when you think that the average annual rainfall in Champagne is only around 650 mm, then you'll get a better idea of how wet August really was.
On the whole though, he seemed optimistic that the quality would turn out to be O.K.
This is to avoid any damage to the grapes skins, particularly the black grapes, because that would set of the fermentation process and risk staining the juice with pigment from the skins - not at all what you want if you're making white champagne.
It's back breaking work that goes on all day.
Every year thousands of workers descend on Champagne for the harvest. Most of them are travellers who do the rounds of the wine regions in France and move north as the season progresses. Champagne will be the last stop this year.
I'll be back with more news as other villages get started in a few days time. Meanwhile there are a couple more pictures below
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