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Harvest 2011 at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy

At last, the long awaited moment has arrived to start the harvest!  The villages and vineyards are a hive of activity.  Teams of harvesters are dotted amongst the vines from the crack of dawn, and the roads are filled with the tractors that go back and forth between the vineyards and the wineries, carrying their precious load.

We started the Harvest Experience Days for the 2011 vintage last weekend at Domaine Chapelle in the Côte de Beaune village of Santenay.

Harvest Experience Day at Domaine Chapelle in Burgundy France

As with the other French wine growing regions, the grapes have ripened early this year.  At Domaine Chapelle the first bunches were harvested some three weeks earlier than last year!

After the quick introductions, it was straight of the Clos des Cornières vineyard, home to the adopted vines of the Gourmet Odyssey Wine Experience clients.  Jean François Chapelle lost no time in distributing our tools for the day, a pair of secateurs each, and a pile of crates to put the grapes into!

Containers at the start of each vine row to collect the harvested grapes

In teams of two, we spread out to take charge of a row of vines per couple, and the harvest began!  After removing some of the leaves from around the bunches, so as to better see the grapes, we used the secateurs to cut them and then we placed them in the crate.

Harvesting the Grapes from the adopt-a-vines

In such a setting it's impossible to resist the temptation of tasting the grapes!  They are looking good this year, fairly large and oh so sweet!  We noticed a few damaged bunches, either some grapes that had shriveled up from the hot sun at the end of June, and some bunches where the first signs of rot have appeared, caused by the hot and wet weather that settled over Burgundy in the couple of weeks prior to the harvest starting.

Assessing the quality of the grapes

Once we had filled each crate, we brought it back to the beginning of the vine row to be picked up later, and then took a new crate to harvest some more grapes.

Filling the crates with the harvested grapes

Harvesting is a fairly physical job, especially in Burgundy where the vines are pruned close to the ground.  The aperitif was therefore very welcome!

Back at the winery, we started the wine tasting session with a Santenay "St Jean" 2009 white wine, followed by a Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru "Morgeot" 2009.  As is the custom, the wines were accompanied by some gougères, a local specialty!

Wine tasting Burgundy wines from Domaine Chapelle

During the meal, we continued the tasting with some of the winery's red wines; a Santenay "Clos des Cornières" 2007, followed by an Aloxe Corton 2007 to compare two pinot noir wines of the same vintage but from different terroirs.  We ended with a Santenay Premier Cru "Beaurepaire" 2002.

After lunch, we met back up with our harvested grapes, which had since continued their journey to the reception hall.  Here the crates, brimming with grapes, are received and emptied onto the sorting table.  Side by side with the professional team, and once again equipped with a pair of secateurs, we separated the damaged or unripe grapes from the ones which are to be used to make our wine.

Sorting the good from bad grapes on the sorting table

We saw the de-stemming machine at work which separates the grape berries from the stalks.  The stalks and rejected grapes are collected in a trailer to make compost.

The discarded stems headed for compost

The sorting table is located above the fermentation hall, and so the good grapes continue their journey down a slide where they are collected in a trolley before being taken to one of the fermentation tanks.  Each plot of vines is vinified separately.  Yannick Jacrot, the Technical Director, and Jean François Chapelle then explained the first stages of fermentation to us.

Filling the fermation tanks with the harvested grapes

We then headed down the stone steps into the cellar to see where the wines will continue their fermentation and ageing in oak barrels.

Visiting the wine cellar

All this made us thirsty again, so we had a final refreshment waiting for us; some grape juice from that day's harvest!

A big thank you to all those who shared the day with us, and especially to Jean François and his team for welcoming us so warmly during the busiest period of the winemaker's year!


  • We have fond memories of the great day we spent with you on the 3rd September, of your friendly welcome and that of the winemaker who spent so much time with us, even though he had a whole harvest to keep an eye on too! And not forgetting the wines which were great too. Thank you, well done and see you again soon.

  • A very enlightening day that improved our knowledge of winemaking.
    We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of time that Mr Chapelle was able to share with us. We just have to remain patient now to see if the 2011 vintage will be able to match the wines that we tasted over lunch.
    I look forward to the next update on how our vintage is evolving...

  • True thanks for this excellent day - really fun, very instructive, and also very tasty!

    A winemaker - now there's a real job!

    Thanks again to JF Chapelle for his hospitatlity despite all of the work going on around him, and Mark and his team.

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