For the harvest to start the grape must reach a minimum potential alcohol level of 20°c. Grape samples are daily collected at different states of rot - roast berries, botrytised berries, semi roasted, fat botrytis, berries just starting to show signs of botrytisation. These samples tell about the level of potential alcohol and hence the maturity of each plot and the vineyards state of health.
The percentage of botrytised grapes evolves with the harvest but it remains essential to reach a minimum of 20°C to express both the balance we are targeting and the terroir.
The harvest starts when the morning mist lifts. We wait for the grapes to dry and the whole team (120 people) works on the same plot. The harvest is done uniquely by hand picking after picking through the vines (2 to 6 selections). Each bunch is carefully inspected and only bunches or grapes with a correct level of botrytis are picked. Those that have not reached the required level are left on the vine to develop further. They will be picked later if they are mature enough. Depending upon the concentration we can tolerate a certain percentage of golden grapes, healthy but ripe, which brings the potential alcohol level down slightly.
Any grapes showing signs of disease are left on the ground to prevent the disease from spreading. Rigorous selection is the secret of a great Sauternes and so quality is our priority. Harvesting bad grapes changes the nature of the wine and compromises the vintage. The grapes are picked and placed in small plastic crates and never piled on top of another to avoid squashing and manipulation.
The volume produced from a harvest at Guiraud is between 12-13 hl/ha, even though the law in the appellation Sauternes-Barsac allows up to 25hl/ha. The reason for this low yield is that high quality rather than quantity is our goal
The very last degrees that will bring the wine up to the required 20° before starting the harvest are especially difficult to get. This the most difficult part to obtain. In return, to reach this concentration level we are loosing a consequent part of our production.