‘Anyone who says climate change isn’t real, isn’t a Bordeaux wine maker’

In France's southern Bordeaux region, the grape harvest is often now done at night to ensure the peak freshness required to obtain the best wine but this is also a response to climate change.

'Anyone who says climate change isn't real, isn't a Bordeaux wine maker'

With the country sweltering in a late heatwave, it is 20C at five in the morning as a harvester crawls along a row of vines, powerful headlights helping guide its way through the darkness.

“Harvesting at night is done for the quality of the grapes, their freshness and taste,” said the driver, Loic Malherbe, who has been at it for three hours already.

“It isn’t bad, it’s just life at a different rhythm… It’s better for the equipment and for people.”

It is already a common practice in several winemaking countries with hot summers but one that is likely to become even more common as climate change accelerates.

Harvesting at night can also help financially strapped growers save money, according to Kees Van Leeuwen, a professor of viniculture at Bordeaux Sciences Agro university.

It means they can skip refrigerating grapes while they are being hauled to be pressed, he explained.

“If harvesting is done at night the temperature of the grapes is lower, especially compared to the very hot days we’ve had this week,” he said.

“There is a huge saving in energy use.”

The harvester dumps the merlot grapes into bins which the vineyard’s owner Stephane Heraud hitches to his tractor to haul to the cooperative.

“It’s been 15 years that we’ve harvested the whites and the rosés at night, and maybe one day we’ll do that for the reds as well,” said Heraud, who also heads the cooperative Vignerons de Tutiac.

“If we harvested at night, we’d have wine that is more oxidised, which in terms of taste is not nearly as nice.”

Heraud climbs up onto his tractor and spreads dry ice (-80C) onto the grapes.

This not only helps keep the grapes cool but reduces the oxygen level in the bins as he drives to the cooperative, which is the largest in one of France’s protected designation regions with 500 growers.

Tutiac has specialised in rosés and accounts for nearly a third of the total produced in the Bordeaux region.

Its pesticide-free rosé caused a stir at a blind tasting conducted by the French wine magazine La Revue des vins de France, being placed fourth among roses from the Provence region which traditionally take top marks in the category.

That night, growers were expected to dump some 500 tonnes of grapes into the various stainless-steel tanks at the wine press, enough to make half a million bottles of wine.

Tutiac’s chief oenologist Paul Oui said consumers like rosés that are light coloured and clear.

To achieve that “you have to limit the transfer of the colour from the skin to the juice and the earlier and cooler we harvest the more we can limit the transfer”, he said.

Night harvesting is already common in Australia and California due to the heat, and the practice is spreading in the Bordeaux region according to Van Leeuwen.

“For whites and rosés, one can imagine that it will become common practice,” said the specialist.

Nor did he exclude that it might one day concern grapes for red wine, which account for 85 percent of Bordeaux’s production.

Rising temperatures make grapes mature faster and push the harvest sooner and into warmer periods, and Heraud confirmed that harvests were indeed happening sooner and sooner.

“I remember when I was small watching my parents harvesting in November,” he said.

“Last year, we were finished on September 30th…,” he added.

“Anyone who says climate change isn’t real isn’t a Bordeaux winemaker.”

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Queues overnight as US doughnut shop Krispy Kreme opens in France

There were queues in the street overnight as the American doughnut chain Krispy Kreme opened in Paris on Wednesday.

Queues overnight as US doughnut shop Krispy Kreme opens in France

In what the French press has deemed a ‘Nuit Blanche’ (sleepless night), hundreds of people braved the cold weather, queuing for hours in central Paris on Tuesday night for the chance to taste a Krispy Kreme doughnut early on Wednesday morning.

Lada, a 19-year-old student, told French daily Le Parisien she had arrived at 7pm the day before opening in hopes of being at the front of the line.

“I discovered Krispy Kreme in Scotland, and I’m a real fan of doughnuts. When I found out a store was opening in Paris, I told myself I couldn’t miss it. It was well worth a sleepless night in the cold,” she told Le Parisien.

You can hear the team at The Local talking about the French love of junk food in the latest episode of the Talking France podcast. Listen here or on the link below. 

The American brand had given out the incentive that the first 10 people in line would win a year’s worth of free doughnuts. According to the French daily, Krispy Kreme expected around 3,000 customers on the opening day.

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The brand also launched a huge marketing campaign, handing out nearly 100,000 free doughnuts before the grand opening and putting up dozens of comedic posters across the city.

One read ‘Macaron démission!’ – a play on words implying that French pastries – macaroons – ought to give up, while simultaneously poking fun at a popular slogan on political demonstrations (Macron resign).

However, the posters sparked anger from the city’s deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, who said that they were unlicenced, illegal and polluting – the city has for decades been battling illegal flyposting (affichage sauvage).

The new store, located in the Forum des Halles, is a first for the American brand in France who hopes to inaugurate at least five to ten doughnut shops in the next five years in the capital area. 

The chain also intends to sell its doughnuts in dozens more kiosks – located at grocery stores, shopping malls, train stations, and airports around Paris.

“Billions of croissants are sold each year in France. We want to take our share of the stomach,” the head of Krispy Kreme France, Alexandre Maizoué, told Actu France.

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