A few days after harvesting Weiss Burgunder grapes, we went out yesterday to harvest Spätburgunder (literally, “Late Burgundian”) grapes, also known in other parts of the world as Pinot Noir grapes. These grapes claim 11% of the total vineyards of Germany, a crop on the rise in Germany, and especially prominent in southwest Germany, in the region known as Kaiserstuhl just to the west of Freiburg am Breisgau, where our dear friends live and grow these beautiful grapes. Germany, with her 29,000 acres of Spätburgunder, ranks third in the world for growing this varietal of grape after France (75,000 acres) and USA (73,000 acres). Spätburgunder is the most widely planted and grown red wine grape in Germany. Oregon ranks second in USA for production of this varietal of grape, after California, with 70% of Pinot Noir in Oregon grown in Yamhill County. Oregon wine regions known for producing Pinot noir include Willamette Valley AVA, Dundee Hills AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, Yamhill-Carlton District AVA, McMinnville AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, and Chehalem Mountains AVA. AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, a formal and legal description of a specific region for growing grapes. The last AVA listed here, Chehalem Mountains AVA is where my friend Laurel Hood grows her Pinot Noir grapes, also known as Spätburgunder in Germany.
Our Spätburgunder harvest day began around 8 in the morning as a group of family members (nephews and a niece) gathered at the family home, and headed uphill to the terraced vineyard, about half a mile away. The sun was just coming over the mountains of the Black Forest above Freiburg to the east as we began to harvest. We worked three rows at a time, with one person on either side of the row, moving vine by vine down the row, cutting off each individual cluster of grapes with clippers. We moved along quickly, as the afternoon weather forecast included a chance of rain, something you do not want on harvest day. At the end of the first three rows harvested we had a full vat of grapes ready to take to the local co-operative, known as Winzergenossenshaft Botzingen. We took a short break for refreshment in mid-morning, with good jokes and story-telling, mostly in German. Then we headed back into the vineyard to complete the work, finishing just before noon, a new record for amount of time it took to harvest that specific vineyard. The last portion we harvested were new vines just planted last year, celebrating their first harvest, with one or two small clusters on each of the spindly vines. After picking up our tools and buckets, we walked back into town for a post-harvest lunch together, raising a toast for a good morning work, bringing in another 3300 pounds of grapes, just under two tons of beautiful Spätburgunder grapes ready to be made into wine. The sugar levels were 92-93, above the norm, another positive indicator of a good harvest on a cool autumn day on the terraces of Kaiserstuhl in one of the world’s finest Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) growing regions.