What is the process for harvesting grapes? What is this year’s harvest expected to look like? Read on to learn about the 2021 grape harvest in France!

Harvesting Grapes by Hand - Comte-Jean-Maréchal

How Do Winemakers Know When to Begin the Grape Harvest in France?

Generally, harvest season in France starts earlier in the south than in the north, but the beginning of harvest time is more complex than that. Mother Nature, the wine grower, and legal entities all play a part in deciding when the grape harvest begins in each area of France.

La Vendange starts with an administrative decision: winegrowers cannot begin harvesting until the local prefecture (an administrative place in every large town in France that governs local law) lifts the harvest ban. The lifting of the ban or ‘lever le ban des vendanges’ usually occurs 100 days after the vines have flowered. This can start as early as August and end as late as the end of October. Weather during the year can also play a role, with frosts often pushing the harvest date back later and heatwaves bringing it forward.

Ultimately, the French winegrowers determine if and when the grapes are ripe enough to harvest. There needs to be an appropriate level of sugars in the grapes to be turned into alcohol, and the grapes’ acidity level must be determined by the winegrower to be optimal. Areas that grow sweeter wines, like Jurançon, often harvest slightly later to get more sweetness from more mature grapes.

French 2021 Grape Harvest Impacted by Extreme Weather

A Year of Extreme Weather & France’s Grape Harvest

After a year of “unprecedented times” in a variety of areas, it appears that France’s wine harvest will also be taking a hit.

This spring, deep frosts struck vineyards throughout France. Freezing temperatures destroyed buds on grapevines. The intensity of the frost and its impact led the French government to declare it as an agricultural disaster.

In response to freezing temperatures, many winemakers began lighting candles, braziers, or even bales of straw on fire and placing them every few feet throughout the vineyards to protect the vines from the cold.

Another tactic some winemakers used was protecting vines from the freeze with ice. Many vineyards used overhead sprinklers to spray water over the vines. When the water freezes on the shoots and buds, the ice forms a coating that protects them from the damaging frost.

In addition to the frost, torrential summer rains hit western Europe in July. Parts of Germany and Belgium endured great flooding, and fungal diseases attacked vineyards in France.

On Friday, August 6, 2021, France’s first national outlook on wine output projected a decrease of 24-30% less production than last year. During somMailier Founder & CEO Laurent’s trip to France, many winemakers that he spoke to confirmed this, saying that production will be extremely limited in some regions.

French Grape Harvest Comte Jean Maréchal

What Does This Year’s Grape Harvest in France Mean for Us?

Despite a decrease in the quantity of grapes that will be harvested this year, the quality is still expected to be good. Additionally, some winemakers reserve past years’ output as a cautionary measure in case of a decrease in the supply or an increase in the demand for wine. This practice is particularly common among Champagne producers. This means these winemakers can adjust for this year’s low harvest by dipping into some of that stock.

Rest assured, with our unique connections in France, we are able to make sure that our members still can enjoy great French wines. In the meantime, you can always stock up on your favorites by shopping our wine cellar or joining the club to have exquisite French wine delivered to your doorstep every three months.

Want to learn more about French wine? We’re here to help! Why not check out our French wine club? Every three months we send direct to your door three, six, or twelve bottles of boutique French wines which have been carefully selected by wine experts in France along with detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life! For the perfect last minute gift, send one of our digital gift cards.

We also offering free shipping on 12-bottle orders within the continental US (including our 12-bottle Club Et Voila and Et Voila Gift options). We are also offering 50% off shipping of 12-bottle orders to Hawaii. Mix and match your favorites from our wine cellar, or stock up with 12 bottles of your favorite.

Julia is happy to help with any custom orders. Please reach out to her via email at julia@sommailier.com.