Franck's mother scanned and sent me some family photos she found of the grape harvest. To honour this year's recently completed harvest, and because they are simply too good not to share...
The harvest used to be a family affair, especially in the Hautes-Côtes where Franck is from and where our three village rentals are located. Villages like Villers-la-Faye and Magny-les-Villers were never as wealthy as their counterparts lower down on the Côtes, such as Gevrey-Chambertin and Pommard. Franck's maternal grandparents, like most villagers in Villers-la-Faye, owned some livestock, had a large vegetable and fruit garden, went fishing, collected snails and mushrooms, and of course had their own grape vines.
At the harvest the entire extended family would come to help pick and squeeze the grapes. It was invariably festive (inevitable as it involved a lot of Burgundy wine) and usually spread out over several days.
In the photo above I have a particular soft spot for the wizened great-great grandfather at the front of the photo pouring himself a mug of wine. He clearly has far more time for le bon vin than family snapshots.
It's interesting to look for features in Franck's ancestors that have been passed down to my girls. Clémentine, in particular, has a face and build that could fit right into the family photo above.
You can see that traditional Burgundian harvest baskets were always used. They were shaped with an indent in the middle so that they could easily be carried on one shoulder with the other hand balancing a full load of grapes. Few winemakers harvest with the traditional baskets anymore, but I do know of a few and always make a point of going to watch them at harvest time.
I wonder about this little guy with his own little basket of grapes and his injured thumb. Did he get it stuck in the wine press? Cut it on a pair of harvesting shears?
Here they are loading up the baskets full of grapes on the portable pressoir that was shared by the villagers and used to press the grapes as soon as they came from the vineyards. Franck's grandfather, the eponymous Pépé Georges that I refer to quite a bit in My Grape Village, is standing up on the left wearing a sweater and a cap.
The Bouhey family wine domaine (see the inscription at the bottom of this photo) is still at the entrance to Villers-la-Faye and run by the older brother of my friend Sandrine (who, if you remember, was the one - along with Franck's sister - who set Franck and me up on a blind date in My Grape Year).
Here is Franck's cousin was trying to "help" pressing the grapes in the family cellar. I believe the guy in the glasses is Franck's great-uncle Fernand. Fernand was reputed to taste so much wine while it was aging in the barrels that he would find he had no wine left when bottling time came. He would shake his fist and curse the barrel makers for using inferior wood that soaked up all the wine, when really it was his own liver that did the soaking.
As you can see, the harvest was hard work, but also a huge family celebration. I love this last photo of Franck's Aunt Renée and her husband Marcel (the couple on the right). She was always front and centre at all family celebrations, and still plays a mean accordion (as she did at our wedding).