Harvest Time In St. Emilion

Enjoying a beautiful, warm sunny Sunday in St. Emilion. The tiny streets are crowded with tourists from everywhere making it more difficult than ever to find a parking place. And although the wine bars and restaurants are packed and the noise level is high, the surrounding cellars and vineyard areas are quiet.

No tractors are bumping along the numerous roads rushing from vineyard to cellar and spilling red juice along the roads as they were last week in the Languedoc region to the South.

In St. Emilion growers are playng that annual and risky waiting game as they hope for sustained warm, dry October weather to yield another miracle and make 2016 a surprising following act to 2015.

A noisy thunderstorm blew through here late last Friday dropping considerable rain for about 2 hours.

But Saturday was dry with slight breezes to dry things. Dark clouds were visible in the distance until the skies cleared in the early evening. The waiting game was on.

A few raindrops fell the week before. But this is France and nobody panics when rain arrives during the harvest season. Not here, at least. One grower suggested the vines would benefit from the rain so long as the thin-skinned Merlot grapes didn’t begin to split open from the added moisture. That would be a disaster because Merlot plays a starring role in St. Emilion wines.

But the red grapes are hanging, looking ripe and juicy to the untrained eye. The vines are still green, looking healthy. That’s an old Merlot vine carrying a small crop in our photo.

Merlot will be the first variety harvested. Possibly later in the week. Then the two Cabernets with Malbec and Petit Verdot coming in  to end the harvest.

Meanwhile, the waiting continues.





Author: robywine, norm roby

My career as a wine journalist/critic began in 1975 when my article about California Petite Sirah was published. My focus remained on California as I edited a monthly wine magazine and then moved on to The Wine Spectator in 1981. Over the following years, my column appeared under the banner of “Stormin’ Norman, and I also wrote articles about wine collectors and wine auctions. Without getting into a year by year bio, let me try to summarize here. During my time with The Spectator which I enjoyed immensely, I taught wine classes at a culinary school and at other venues in San Francisco. Before venturing into wine, teaching was my thing, English Lit and Rhetoric. After The Spectator I was the U.S. Contributor to Decanter Magazine, writing mostly about California, but also expanding into Washington State and Oregon. My Decanter years began in 1992 and after buying a summer home in France in 2000, I traveled throughout France and eventually published articles about St. Emilion, Castillon, Bergerac, Minervois, Roussillon, Luberon, Provence, and Alsace. Also, around 2000, my wife began working for Cousino-Macul in Chile, so we tasted and traveled our way through Chile and, of course, managed to fly over the Andes and explore and taste our way through Argentina. As travel lovers, we have also spent many interesting days visiting the wine regions of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sicily, Greece, and New Zealand. And to come to a close, I was Director of a Charity Wine Auction for 20 years, 1992-2000 that benefitted a local hospital. That brought me in contact with wine collectors and to the auction scene. And finally, I co-authored a book, The Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine published by Alfred A. Knopf. It went through 4 editions and sold over 500.000 copies.

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