When is the late harvest in France?

Late harvests are usually done in November, after the traditional harvest in France. This over-ripening process involves leaving the grapes on the vine for longer, and harvesting them after they have passed their ripeness point.

What's late harvest?

Late harvesting means voluntarily allowing the grapes to continue maturing on the vine, and delaying the moment of harvest. Prolonged exposure to the sun causes the grape bunches to dehydrate considerably, which in turn increases the sugar content of the grapes and enhances their flavour. In this way, late harvests have a direct influence on the taste of a wine. The wines produced are sweeter.

Because of their fragility due to dehydration, the bunches of grapes need to be picked by hand. The price of late harvest wines is therefore generally higher.

Then, term « late harvest » is regulated in France. For a wine to be called a " late harvest ", it must comply with strict specifications such as :

  • Grapes with a minimum sugar content, depending on the type of wine produced,
  • no added sugar in the fermenting grape must (chaptalisation),
  • inspection by the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO)during the harvest,
  • ageing for a minimum of 18 months.

This appellation is therefore reserved for specific grape varieties.

When is the late harvest in france?

Unlike traditional harvests, it is not possible to give a precise date for the start of the late harvest. However, we can say that they generally take place in November each year. Dates depend on the type of wine.

Which wines are produced with late harvest grapes in france?

  • Gewurztraminer, white wine from Alsace
  • Riesling, white wine from Alsace
  • Pinot Gris, white wine from Alsace
  • Muscat late harvest wine
  • Gaillac, an AOC white wine from the south-west of France
  • Jurançon, an AOC white wine from the south-west of France

These wines can also be harvested in the traditional way. In order to distinguish them, the wording " late harvest " always precedes the appellation. In France, late harvests are mainly carried out in the Alsace region. The process is not unknown in other European countries such as Germany and Luxembourg.

The process of over-ripening late harvest grapes is also used in the production of straw wines. For this technique, the grapes are harvested and continue to dehydrate on straw. Other AOC and AOP appellations such as Sauternes are also produced using the over-ripening process. For this vineyard, the term noble rot (or Botrytis) is used rather than late harvest.

To enjoy their full potential and aromas, theses wines should be aerated by following the recommendations before tasting and respecting a specific temperature.

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Aveine's tip

The term "passerillage" refers to the late harvesting method, which involves leaving the berries on the vines for a little longer before harvesting once they have reached maturity, or drying them after harvesting. Winegrowers use two passerillage techniques: on-stump and thinning on-stump.

Other questions to explore about late harvests...