Wine Growing in France

Posted by on November 11, 2011

Wine Growing in France has existed since Abraham’s day and before. Moses is said to have been fond of wine. In this article we will explore how wine is made, from the grapevine to your glass.

Wine growing and harvesting: A grapevine produces for 30 years. It takes three years for a young grapevine to begin producing and six years to reach its normal
production. Pruning takes place in winter and the vines are sprayed several times a year in order to eradicate the grapevines’ enemies: mildew, phylloxera,
oidium and vicoses. Artificial clouds protect against frost.

Winegrowing methods vary from one region to another. In Burgundy harvesting the stems begins without delay. In the Bordeaux region, however, harvesting takes place over three weeks, especially for the sweet white wines, and the grapes are harvested as soon as the grape reaches absolute maturity, and not before. The workers go from grapevine to grapevine each day picking only the fully ripe bunches to ensure the sweetness of the grapes. They are called “rotis” (roasted by the sun.)

In Champagne, the grapes are carefully cut off the vine with scissors and any grape that isn’t perfect is removed.

The grapes are then transported in special carts equipped with springs. Once they reach the winegrower’s facility the grapes are stripped from the stems, either totally or partially depending on the region and placed into vats where the grapes are pressed to burst the skins; certain wines, however, retain their grapes intact, with the skin on. The pressing (foulage) is now done by machines, except for very small private wine growers. For centuries this was done by men. The author remembers spending hours under a hot September sun, jumping in vats with several other little girls, squashing the grapes. It took months to get rid of the stains on our legs. The skins were collected and
thrown to the side and chicken gorged themselves, until they were drunk, falling and running in circles. They loved their “vin nouveau.”

Once the skins are removed, the grapes are placed in vats where they will ferment. For many centuries these vats were made of wood, but these days they have been replaced by stainless steel vats, with the exception of certain grands crus wines.

The legal definition of wine: The product of the fermentation of fresh grapes. Fermentation occurs spontaneously due to the yeast contained naturally in the grapes. According to Pasteur, the temperature required for fermentation must not exceed 35 degrees Celsius and never reach below 19 degrees. The ideal temperature is 25 degrees. The length required for fermentation varies according to regions, from twenty four hours to fifteen days. Modern tendencies seem to prefer shorter periods. In Burgundy, for example it is now only one or
two days. The wine is then filtered and put into oak barrels where fermentation continues at low temperatures. Ordinary table wine is then delivered for consumption and quality wines are allowed to stay in barrels for three or four years before being poured into bottles where they will continue to age.

Our next article will be dedicated entirely to Champagne. See you then.

 

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