In the middle of October, the leaves are still green in this year 2016. In recent days, social networks have relayed the announcement of these unusual harvest open to everyone in a picturesque wine village where there is always something happening : Dambach-la-Ville.
Accompanied by my friend Cyril Roux, I’m at the rendezvous. Cyril is a great wine lover and a sharp taster. This afternoon will be conducted eagerly, so we divided the tasks : Cyril will take notes and question the participants. You will find his remarks further in italics. I take pictures …
Heading for the vineyard, following the horse …
« Place de la Mairie », it is almost 2 pm and many people have responded to the call of the members of the Confrérie des Bienheureux of Dambach for the traditional harvests of the « Bienheureuse », a small vineyard on the slopes of the Grand Cru Frankstein.
Traditional music and old wine press welcome us on the place where the members of the Confrérie des Bienheureux of Dambach are active: setting up tables and glasses, stacking buckets to harvest grapes, welcoming people who arrive gradually and of course their traditional song in Alsatian then in French! The women of wine are also there: Nina, Miss Granite 2016, Marine, dauphine of the Queen of the wines of Alsace 2016, Marine, Queen of wines of Alsace 2014 …
Michel arrived with his mare Ophasia to transport the grapes after the harvest. And they trot in the alleys of the village to join the parcel of the « Bienheureuse ». The one-day harvesters follow in procession to the sound of the bell regularly waved by the Great Venerable. Discussions take place between the different participants. The weather is fine, the sun is frank and puts us in a very good mood to climb the paths that lead to the heights of Dambach.
Vines led as in old times …
The Grand Cru Frankstein consists of a granite soil and is divided into 4 zones. The plot where we are going to harvest is outside the Grand Cru because exposed slightly to the north. The vines are led as in the old times, that is to say distaff (vine ligated on a pole) and in complantation (mixture of grape varieties).
Some are regulars: “we come from the North of France and it is the 3rd year! “
Some are regulars: “we come from the North of France and it is the 3rd year! “. Future winemakers may do their first steps in the business. Vocations emerge sometimes in moments full of life as this one.
After a few explanations, the pruner snips go well, interspersed with taking photos to capture the moment. The small buckets make the large vats and little by little, the grapes mix. Like the mosaic of colors of the skins of grapes, people mix, exchange, laugh.
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The fantastic ride of the mare Ophasia
Lively and epic was the descent of the cart and the protagonists will be able to talk about it for a long time. Ophasia gallops down the slope and the passage of chicane is impressive, the confreres clinging and counterbalancing while the hat of Michel flies away. The crew regains a quieter rhythm in the alleys and we all laugh together about what happened.
To experience this incredible episode, click to enlarge and scroll through the images.
Where these ladies press in the press …
The grapes must still land in the winepress and the Great Venerable hires “strong arms” to create a human chain to pass the buckets. A shared work as in the Middle Ages. Many regions of France and countries of the world form this farandole (Australia, USA, Finland, Poitou, Bordelais, Picardie …)
Then comes the crushing with foot to which several ladies take part, before being taken into the arms of a « Bienheureux » to the fountain in front to wash their feet in the water of the Frankstein.
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A beautiful cake from the press!
The juice flows and delights the curious tasters. After a few screws, the plate comes to finish the press of the grapes. The press is opened to reveal a multicolored “cake”.
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Accompanied by tartines with white cheese and glasses of « Bienheureuse » vintage 2014, discussions between grape harvesters, confreres or simple visitors continue on the village square.
In 2015, hailstorms had damaged the grapes producing very little juice. This 2016 vintage promises both quantity and quality. A beautiful afternoon under the sign of the bear (the figurehead of the city of Dambach) and the « Bienheureux » !
The Confrérie des Bienheureux of Dambach-la-Ville is about thirty active members and other members “on standby”, who perpetuate the wine traditions since its creation in 1990. They will open their wine collection in 2017.
What a pleasant day! The Confrérie des Bienheureux of Frankstein organizes two events every year in Dambach-la-Ville. One in the spring, to invite you to discover the aromas of granite wines, the other, in autumn, to harvest their vines. That is what we experienced today.
To keep aware of the dates of the events organized by the Confrérie des Bienheureux of Frankstein, simply follow their Facebook page.
My friend Cyril Roux is a great fan of (good) wines and a sharp taster. You can find him on his blog and share his discoveries of beautiful bottles from all regions.