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In Alsace, grape harvests for a large gray pinot

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | On the steep slope of the Rangen, overlooking the
commune of Vieux-Thann (Haut-Rhin), one works the roped
vine.

On the steep slope of the Rangen, overlooking the commune of
Vieux-Thann (Haut-Rhin), the vineyard is worked: a gray
Alsatian pinot gray, harvested on 45% slopes, transforms the
seasoned harvester into mountaineer.

“The slope always frightens the first time … but as we go
down to the slope, we relax quickly,” says Émilienne Gerbet, a
bucket in one hand, a pruning shears in the other. For the 12th
year in a row, the retired began the descent of a row of vines,
tied up by a climbing harness.

On either side of her line, she is caught up by her
colleagues who have become friends in this plot of 4.5
hectares. The atmosphere is friendly, but there is no question
of missing the grapes, among the last to be harvested each
season for this grand cru, and destined for the production of
about 20,000 bottles of Rangen by the cooperative
Wolfberger.

“The framework is the icing on the cake. We are fighting to
come,” says François Siffer, from a nearby row where a
“schlitte” – an Alsatian sledge serving as a hood – is held by
a rope. The “schlitte”, guided by the strongest gatherers, is
soon filled with the first clusters, transferred between the
steep rows thanks to the buckets.

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | Harvested on 45% slopes, this Alsatian gray pinot vinot
transforms the seasoned harvester into an alpinist.

The drop is about one hundred meters and the slope of the
slopes reaches 60% in places. “It is more pleasant for the back
and the feet than for the flat, because we put his weight on
the harness, but we can not stop in the middle of the row to
pause,” laughs Bernard Schwendenmann, 63, former production
manager.

He passed his hand over to his son three years ago, but
continues to supervise the rope ropes anchored to the ground
from the road overlooking the vines. “Good quality, small
quantity this year. The natural degree of alcohol is around 16
°, it takes at least 14 ° to get the appellation grand cru,”
rejoiced the retired winegrower.

– “Harvesting sports” –

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | All the vines will be stripped in one week, at the rate
of 4 descents per day of about an hour and a half.

In the rows, one invokes more in Alsatian than in French, by
habit, and one tells oneself of the slices of life. Leo, 18,
the youngest of 22 pickers, is there to pay his driver’s
license. Pierre Schmitt, a neighboring winegrower who came to
“spin a hand”, makes conversation and evokes the journey of a
friend in Australia to pass the time.

The grape harvesters cut the clusters within reach, then
down their corridor a few meters through their descender,
before blocking the rope, and start again. “Let’s say they are
a little more sporting than usual,” explains Émilienne
Berget.

Once the first descent is over, the time is right for the
coffee break for the grape harvesters. An Alsatian cake
engulfed and the slope is reassembled, in 4×4 this time.

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | The grape harvesters cut the clusters within reach,
then down their corridor a few meters through their descender,
before blocking the rope, and start again.

All the vines will be stripped in one week, at the rate of 4
descents per day of about an hour and a half.

The first feet of this parcel of volcanic rocks were planted
in 1992. Bernard Schwendenmann thought of this system of
harvesting rope after having seen workers renovate the walls of
a church in the same way.

The method has not evolved in 20 years
and remains more expensive and time-consuming than on flat,
“but there is not really a more practical solution,” Judge
Schwendenmann. And above all more original.

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