You love wine and you have you often wanted to do the harvest? It’s time to make your dream come true! On Friday 23 September, take part in a recreational harvest day at the Domaine de Rocheville, in the heart of the Saumur Champigny vineyards. Become a “grape picker for a day” and enjoy a unique immersive experience with the winegrower.
Spend a day discovering the grape harvest with an independent winegrower
Rocheville : a wine estate in the Loire Valley
Domaine de Rocheville is a wine estate located in the heart of the Saumur Champigny PDO vineyards, on the border between Anjou and Touraine. Its contemporary winery stands on a limestone plateau overlooking the Loire and the small wine-producing village of Parnay, halfway between Saumur and Montsoreau.
17 hectares of vines and 3 grape varieties
With 17 hectares, Rocheville is a medium-sized estate, but when you harvest by hand, it still represents a lot of work!
The majority of his vines are scattered over fifteen or so parcels located near the Route des Vins and a few hundred metres from the winery.
The main grape varieties grown are Cabernet Franc (14 ha), which is used to make Saumur Champigny and Saumur Rosé, and Chenin Blanc (3 ha), for Crémant de Loire and Saumur Blanc.
But the estate also owns a parcel of Chenin on the beautiful terroir of Brézé, 10 km south of Saumur, and five young rows of Chardonnay glued to the cellar.
The terroir of Saumur Champigny
Each parcel has its own specificities, and this is what gives each of our cuvées its character.
But the main characteristic of the soil in the Saumur Champigny appellation is the omnipresence of the tuffeau, which gives our wines their finesse and freshness.
This limestone and porous rock has the capacity to absorb water when it rains and to give it back to the vine in case of drought. Practical!
On the surface, the soil differs from one plot to another, sometimes stony, clayey or sandy…
Here we have a dry and warm microclimate, unique in the Loire Valley, which favours the expression of our grape varieties. But of course, it can rain during the harvest!
Growing vines in Organic Agriculture
The harvest is a key moment for a winegrower, but it is above all the culmination of a whole year’s work in the vineyards to obtain beautiful bunches of grapes that will give quality juice, and therefore good wine!
Since 2019, and after 3 years of conversion, Domaine de Rocheville is certified organic. This follows the Terra Vitis label obtained in 2011. However, Rocheville has always refrained from chemical treatments.
What is an organic wine?
An organic wine is made from 100% organically grown grapes. We are an independent winegrower, so we produce our own grapes.
In an organic vineyard, no pesticides, chemical fertilisers or GMOs are used, only manual or mechanical treatments and natural additives. All cultivation practices are sustainable and aim to limit the impact on the environment.
Soil cultivation and biodynamic calendar
At Rocheville, the vines are grassed to preserve the biodiversity in the soil and the soil is worked mechanically. The biodynamic calendar (lunar and planetary calendar defining flower and fruit days) is even respected in the plots as well as in the winery, for example for the planting of the vines, the harvesting of the grapes, the bottling…
Organic wine production therefore respects the environment and the health of the consumer, from the vine to the glass, and from the tank to the cellar!
Harvesting in a certified organic vineyard means working in a healthy environment!
How are the harvests going?
When does the harvest start?
In the French vineyards, the start of the harvest varies greatly depending on the wine-growing region and the vintage, but it generally takes place from August to October. Even if the date is difficult to predict with precision, as it depends largely on the weather, one can count on 100 days after the flowering of the vine to have a rough idea of when the grapes will be ready to be harvested.
For the past ten years, the start of the harvest in the Saumur Champigny PDO has been getting earlier and earlier due to the heat waves experienced in Maine-et-Loire.
2022 was no exception as the summer was hot and particularly dry so some growers started harvesting at the end of August.
How is the maturity of the grapes determined?
To determine the date of the harvest, it is necessary to follow the evolution of the maturity of the grapes by analyzing samples.
The berries are analysed for total acidity and sugar content, which determines the potential alcoholic strength of the wine, as well as the health of the fruit.
At Rocheville, the grapes for the Crémant de Loire (sparkling white wine) always lead the way as they are harvested slightly under-ripe. Then follows the Chenin grape variety for dry and still white wines (Saumur Blanc) and finally the Cabernet Franc for rosé wine (AOC Saumur Rosé) and red wine (AOC Saumur Champigny).
For red wine, you need not only an adequate sugar content but also a ripe grape in its entirety (skin, seeds, etc.) and a good sweetness.
When you are sure that the grapes are at optimum maturity, you must also take into account the weather. For example, harvesting in the rain should be avoided, as this increases the risk of rotting.
Picking the grapes by hand allows the berries to be sorted as soon as they are harvested.
The cutter cuts the ripe bunches with secateurs, leaving those that are heterogeneous, still green or affected by rot on the vine.
He drops the bunches of grapes into the harvesting bucket, and when it is full, he pours it into the carrier’s hood. In this way, the berries do not burst and the harvested grapes remain intact. Although much more time-consuming and labour-intensive than mechanical harvesting, manual harvesting is a guarantee of quality for the wine.
Description of the harvest day
How does the recreational harvest day work?
Here, hour by hour, is the programme for this day of immersion to discover, alongside the winemaker and the cellar master, all the work carried out during a day of harvesting… but also the Domaine de Rocheville and its Loire wines!
- 9.30 am : welcome breakfast
- 10.00-11.30am: manual harvesting of a plot of organic vines
- 11:30-12:30: discovery of the work in the vat house in preparation for the wine-making process (pressing, sorting table or other depending on the activity in progress)
- 13.00: lunch at the estate, accompanied by the winemaker who will give you a commented tasting of his vintages during the meal
- 2.30 pm: guided tour of the cellars and the troglodytic cellar
- 16h00 : end of the harvest day
As a souvenir of this memorable day, we reserve for you a box of 6 bottles of the vintage for which the grapes you harvested were used. This 2022 vintage will be waiting for you at the estate as soon as it is released in 2023!
This recreational harvest day is a unique experience in the company of the winemaker, who will be delighted to share his know-how and passion with you in the excitement of the harvest!
How to dress for the harvest?
Whatever the weather, bring good shoes (such as trainers), gloves and sports or work clothes that you feel comfortable in and that are not flimsy.
Boots can be useful in the morning, when the ground is damp from dew, or/and in rainy weather. In case of rain, you will appreciate wearing a k-way and waterproof trousers.
If the weather is good, remember to take a hat or cap, sun cream and sunglasses, a short-sleeved t-shirt, shorts and trainers.
We provide the buckets and pruning shears!
Do I need to book?
Alone, as a couple, with friends, would you like to become a “grape picker for a day” and take part in this day of immersion in wine in the Loire Valley?
For organisational reasons, places are limited and booking is compulsory (payment on registration before 20 September 2022).
For any registration, you can contact us by email or by phone.