Home > History of Wine > Historic Images of the Moet & Chandon Harvest circa 1899

Historic Images of the Moet & Chandon Harvest circa 1899


An excellent series of articles appears under the series title “Les Vignerons Champenois” in the Revue de Viticulture.[1]  These are known to historians of Champagne, see Kolleen M. Guy When Champagne Became French (2010), for their documentation of all aspects related to Champagne including child workers and vine propagation.  The images presented in this post illustrate and describe the carrying of the harvested grapes from the vineyard, their sorting, and finally their transportation to the winery.  Though the article does not specifically state in which vineyards the photographs were taken it is obvious by the Moet & Chandon labeled baskets.  The description of this aspect of the harvest are based on my own translation.

Fig. 8 - Chantier de Pareuses terminant leurs paniers (riviere de Marne). [1]

Fig. 8 – Chantier de Pareuses terminant leurs paniers (riviere de Marne). [1]

The site of the Pareuses was set up at the end of the vineyard rows where there was a path.  Using ciseaux the green and rotten grapes are sorted and left on the ground with the paniers left to contain only the good clusters.   In the riviere de Marne the women sorted the grapes while standing but in Montagne de Reims there were many more sorting sites.  Here the women sort the grapes at a table presumably because there was a great volume to sort.

Fig. 9. - Chantier de Pareuses a la clayette (Montagne de Reims). [1]

Fig. 9. – Chantier de Pareuses a la clayette (Montagne de Reims). [1]

The paniers used in the Montagne de Reims were smaller than those in the riviere de Marne where grapes were purchased by the kilogram.  They were smaller in the Montagne de Riems because wine was purchased by pièce de cuvée.  Thus the 200 liter paniers represented approximately 60 kilograms of grapes.  The paniers of grapes were carried out of the vineyard by the debardeurs.  A pair of debardeurs used a two meter long padded beam to suspend the paniers .  The work could be dangerous because the narrow paths could be wet, steep, and full of obstacles.  If the terrain was too rugged then pack mules were employed.  They could transport 40 to 50 paniers  per eight hour day.  The paniers were typically carried a distance of  20 to 500 meters.

Fig. 11. - Debardeurs. [1]

Fig. 11. – Debardeurs. [1]

The paniers of sorted grapes were loaded onto a cart.  A man on the cart would typically attach a rope to the basket to pull it up while a man on the ground helped raise the basket up then pushed it onto the floor of the cart.  In years of great abundance, when there were many paniers to load, a rolling conveyor ramp was used.  A fully loaded cart would contain 20 to 25 paniers.  The paniers  were identified by quality and the numbers were accounted for at the winery.  After unloading the cart the empty baskets were returned to the harvest site.  It was not uncommon for work to continue until 10 or 11pm.

Fig. 13. - Voiture charge de paniers gorbes se rendant au pressoir. [1]

Fig. 13. – Voiture charge de paniers gorbes se rendant au pressoir. [1]

Fig. 14. - Controle des paniers et comptabilite faite par les chefs - vignerons pour le paiment des vendangeurs. [1]

Fig. 14. – Controle des paniers et comptabilite faite par les chefs – vignerons pour le paiment des vendangeurs. [1]


[1] “Le Vigneron Champenois” Revue de Viticulture. 1900.  URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=6dwmAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

  1. Clémence Morel, Tulane student
    March 26, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for this translation of the article from the Revue de Viticulture! It makes me want to read the full series of it. It is interesting to see that, in more than one century, nothing has really changed in the grape-harvest in Champagne, and that the tradition is still exactly the same. Grapes are still completely harvested by hand, and the débardeurs’ work is still really hard and exhausting. Even the use horses, which had been replaced by tractors, is now becoming again an important trend, because of ecological issues.
    I worked two years during the harvest in Champagne, and it is definitely an amazing experience, with a unique and friendly atmosphere!

    • March 26, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Thank you for commenting. The articles are worth reading and looking at. It is fascinating to read about the surviving harvest tradition. If you ever want to share some pictures or memories just let me know. Best, Aaron.

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