The night harvest at champagne pernet & pernet: an innovative initiative faced with the heat

A bold response
to climate challenges

The tragedy of the four grape pickers who died in Champagne attracted media attention. Although no direct link has yet been established, the recent heat wave appears to have played a major role. Faced with these difficult conditions, winegrower Léo Allais-Pernet, established on the Côte des Blancs, took a bold decision to preserve his seasonal workers and improve the quality of his wines: start picking at night.

The Pernet & Pernet champagne house, which is preparing to unveil its first certified organic vintages, operates 9 hectares in Vertus, Bergères-sur-Vertus, Ambonnay, Bouzy and Tauxières. Anticipating the intense heat during the harvest, Léo Allais-Pernet had been considering this approach for several years. “I would have liked to do it in 2022, but it was more complicated. This year, it happened naturally. From the first day, I realized how difficult the conditions were for winegrowers. It’s why, on the second day, we started picking at 4 a.m. This turned out to be an excellent decision, because the firefighters were already there left and right. On the third day, we started even earlier , at 2:30 a.m., ending at 1 p.m., for six days, until the arrival of the rain which cooled the atmosphere.”

The team of loyal seasonal workers for three years found a unique atmosphere in this nocturnal experience.

Despite the surprise visit from the gendarmes, intrigued by these night pickers whom they took for grape thieves, the grape pickers were delighted to work at cool temperatures, avoiding 35 degrees in the middle of the day.

The success of this approach exceeds Léo’s expectations, who thought the logistics would be more complicated. “We simply had to equip ourselves with large projectors to handle the crates. But, logistically, I thought it would be more complex.” In addition to protecting the health of workers, this method also preserves the quality of the grapes. “When picking during the day, I had colleagues who couldn’t even cool their vats because the grapes arrived so hot, with juice at 25 degrees, when ours were at 15.”

This ecological approach is also part of a sustainable energy approach in the vat rooms. Léo highlights the positive impact this could have on their wines. Finally, for Léo Allais-Pernet, anticipating climate change goes beyond adapting the harvest. He acquired Château Saint Clair in Étretat in Normandy, where he planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Next year will mark the first vinification of these vines, in a setting dedicated to wine tourism.