Harvest in the Languedoc
The Languedoc is one of the largest wine producing regions in the world and is at the origin of a third of France's total wine production. This wine region which runs alongside the Mediterranean coast is synonymous with quality, authenticity and terroir. That said, this wasn't the case too long ago.
As it turns out, during the industrial revolution, the Languedoc, which had been known for making excellent wines, started producing bulk cheap wines to feed the demand that was coming from blue collar workers in the metropolitan areas.
This production model continued up until the 1st and 2nd world wars but their reputation stuck with them well into the 60s and 70s.
The winemakers of this region have worked hard to dispel this image and with the creation of the recognisable Languedoc appellations, consumers have turned to this region which offers quality wine at a fraction of the price of the more traditional French regions such as Bourgogne or Bordeaux.
A cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon ready for picking
With such an important production, when September rolls around the whole region is in work mode cultivating the fruit of a year's long work in the vines. A minority of estates will choose to harvest their crop by hand but for the most part they will choose to use harvesting machines (seen above) which offer a greater amount of flexibility at harvest time as winemakers won't need to mobilise a small army of pickers to go out and harvest the vines.
Contrary to many other wine regions around the world, here in the Languedoc, producers are in a constant battle against the sunlight and that could not be more true than during the picking season. Many will choose to harvest at night until the early hours of the morning to preserve the fruit's alcohol content and avoid fermentation from taking hold too quickly. The use of harvesting machines makes this process a little easier.
As we near the end of the "vendanges" we can estimate that this year's harvest is less than optimistic. Where some producers estimate a 15% decline in production compared to last year, some fear that it may be as much as a 40% decline compared to last year which already produced lower than average yields due to rainfall shortages.
If anything can be said about this harvest it is that irrigation has become a priority for winegrowers around the region if they hope to be able to continue. The time when people would frown at the use of irrigation has come and gone. It is clear that with the changes in climate, we are in for drier seasons with less rain and the only thing which will enable this region to continue producing wines is with the installation of drip irrigation.