Many hands make extraordinary work
Champagne’s wine-making traditions endure to this day, despite high demand, and the allure of modern production methods. Discover how its wine makers still produce 300 million bottles a year, the old-fashioned way.
Every September, as Champagne’s grapes reach the peak of ripeness, over 16,000 growers make their preparations for an extraordinary harvest.
Before the unique taste of their wines can be enjoyed, 34,000 hectares of vineyards must be picked by thousands of ordinary hands.
Like Champagne’s volunteer pickers, discover how Vistra take care of the ordinary side of business so our clients can make the extraordinary possible.
Teamwork and precision
Champagne’s success depends on more than 120,000 volunteer pickers working together in harmony.
But before they can begin, growers need expert advice to help them decide the best time to harvest. Exact standards must be met for their wine to earn the coveted ‘designation of origin’, and their volunteer army must be prepared to swing into action immediately. As the grapes change colour, a network of ripening observers take samples from 602 plots across the Champagne region. The grape samples are submitted to the Comité Champagne, which analyses each parcel of vines for grape ripeness, alcohol levels, sugar content and natural acidity.
Time is of the essence. The Comité’s initial findings are returned the same day so that technical officers, including the regional heads of the Association Viticole Champenoise can quickly recommend when to start the harvest.
Labouring with love
Now is the moment that thousands of pickers, porters, loaders, handlers, and drivers descend on the vines. They follow traditions that have changed little since the 18th century; among them, that the grapes should be harvested by hand. And with good reason, because Champagne wine is produced from ¾ black grapes, using only the berry pulp, so it is vital that the grapes are collected without damage to avoid any broken skins tainting their pale-gold juice.
The pickers work row-by-row, in teams of four per hectare. They hand cut 300 grape clusters daily, which equals 300-400 kilos – enough for 30 bottles of wine. And over the next 12 days they will hand pick a truly extraordinary 240 billion grapes.
It is thanks to the extra dedication of these volunteers to an ordinary task that Champagne’s wine makers are able to maintain their unique standards, and continue supplying the world with 300 million bottles of its favourite fizz, year after year. We call that something to celebrate.
Beyond the bubbles, something extraordinary
Just like industries worldwide, Champagne is building for the future, adapting to its changing environment and seeking more sustainable methods of working in both the vineyards and the cellars. By adding extra diligence and care to the seemingly ordinary processes of wine production, progressive wine producers in Champagne are making extraordinary vintages possible for generations to come. Watch Peter Leim (wine writer and author of ChampagneGuide.net) discuss how the Champagne industry is evolving.
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