In many corners of every wine region of the world, the debate rolls on. And will continue – for ever! Machine harvesting versus hand picking. If you had been in the middle of the Hourcat Centre Old Vine Block Merlot section with us this morning, one would understand that if you want to make the best possible wine from your vineyard, there is really no debate or comparison.

Albane and Pascale leading the Merlot harvest in the Old Vine Block, Cardan

Albane and Pascale leading the Merlot harvest in the Old Vine Block, Cardan

It was a humbling experience to be “the boss” of our winery working alongside neighbours and friends from around the world, speaking a few languages and watching the Merlot harvest happen. From a distance, and even fairly close up, much of the fruit looked to be nigh on perfect. The epinettes (grape secateurs) went to work.

Whilst 2013 was horrible as a growing season in Bordeaux, 2014 was equally challenging. We organically micro-treated our vineyard up to 18 times overall, endured tropical monsoon storms and even some hail before September arrived to salvage something positive from the season. However all those weather events have left their mark and sorting them out requires hard slow work. One has romantic illusions of a small group of harvesters happily and rapidly cutting every grape from every vine in sight before retiring for a long lunch that includes a significant tasting of the previous year’s accomplishments! Dream on! That’s why harvesters were invented. They reduced both the time to complete the full harvest and the number of long lunches in one single investment!

Every Merlot bunch was reviewed and only the best grapes passed.

   Every Merlot bunch was hand selected and only the best grapes passed

But what happened here today is unlikely to be achieved by a harvester. Every bunch or part bunch of grapes was reviewed. Dead ones, mouldy ones, empty ones and all the wrong ones were removed and dropped. And what might have got past the grape pickers inspection in the vineyard was almost certainly spotted and removed on the triage (separation) table at the winery prior to de-stemming and crushing. I sometimes saw one of our Paradise Rescued team stop for a full half minute to remove absolutely every single bad grape from a bunch before proceeding to the next vine.

The fruit is now in the vat. The yeast has been dosed and the magic of making wine has begun. A remarkable day with a great team of people. And yes, before you ask, we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the sunshine too. Their efforts will be reflecting in the quality of the wine.

Paradise Rescued Merlot harvest 2014 is in!