The harvest is always a critical time. The grapes must be picked when they offer the optimum combination of sweetness and acidity.
In Chablis, the winegrowers are not looking for over-ripe fruit – they want to attain that perfect balance that makes Chablis wines so unique, achieved here thanks to the particular soil upon which the vines grow and the climate in this northerly part of the Bourgogne region. The harvest is either done by hand or by machine. Then the grapes are brought to the winery for pressing. The juice is collected and alcoholic fermentation can begin. It is time for the yeasts to do their work and convert the sugar in the grapes into alcohol.
Meanwhile in the vines, the leaves fall and the vine shoots turn brown. The vines enter an autumnal period of well-deserved rest. Winegrowers use this time to prune the vines. Vines are creepers and if they go unpruned, they prefer to grow rather than to produce fruit. Pruning is a key stage in their management. It is physically arduous for the winegrower because it takes place in the winter cold, but it helps determine the vigor and the shape of the plants. The winegrower chooses the number of buds to leave on the wood, and in doing so, limits the yield from the plot in order to obtain higher quality fruit.
During the winter rest, the buds on the vine are covered by two brownish scales. This protects them from frost, unless the temperature falls exceptionally low, below 15°C, for several days.