As early as the end of September, from the Garonne and the Ciron, its shady, colder tributary, come morning mists. Blocked by the pine forest, they cover the vineyards, creating a favorable environment for the development of Botrytis cinerea, the tiny cryptogam present on the grapes.
Late mornings the sun breaks and clears this mist, opening the blue sky to soft, beneficial heat; the botrytis has had sufficient time to attack the skins and only the skins, which are literally pierced, whereas the pulp remains untouched. Inside the berries they provoke water evaporation as well as an extraordinary concentration of must.
Initially speckled brown, the grapes turn completely brown until attaining the stage of “full rot”, after which they whither, take on a crumpled appearance and by then have reached ‘noble rot’.
It is then time to pick them. Beginning of harvest varies according to the vintage. Harvesting is performed in ‘sortings’, meaning several times. Each time only the ripe grape clusters, portions of clusters or berries sufficiently ‘roasted’, are harvested, thus the term ‘sorting’. The number of sortings depends on the whim of nature. Let us say the more difficult the vintage, the more sortings to be performed. In favorable years we sort between one and three times. The constant presence of Martine Langlais-Pauly in the vines provides for precise observation and increased precision in instructions given to the harvesters (carefully chosen following an interview). “The right grape to pick…is that one, not another…for today, of course. Tomorrow is another day.”
This constant vigilance and the actions that follow truly bear fruit in difficult vintages where quality must be extremely precise in order for Clos Haut Peyraguey to merit its name followed by the distinction ‘Classified Growth in 1855’.