It can be measured in weeks since the main grape harvest was wrapped up. My 18th and final days picking took place 18 days after secateurs previously saw vineyard action. At Domaine Ribiera (Aspiran) two modest parcels of grenache were left patiently to let the grapes ripen further and shrivel a little. The objective was to produce a sweet Vin Doux Naturel - think modern vintage Banyuls or Maury in style. The old low yielding vines are sited on exposed windy slopes with thinning foliage as autumn beckons. This all combines to facilitate rapid drying after rain and those occasional humid days.
In 2014 all was lost to the deluges at the end of September that, more seriously, claimed several lives in the Hérault. This year the potential alcohol was around 16 degrees as mid-October approached. In order to make a Vin Doux Naturel with minimal winery intervention at least 20 degrees is needed for a good chance of a safe fermentation. For some reason (summer heat? too dry until mid-August?) ripening had been blocked for too long and 20 degrees wasn't going to happen. The Pichons decided to make Cartagene, a Languedoc speciality that involves adding alcohol to the must before fermentation gets going.
As usual the harvested grapes went through the de-stemmer and into a tank. To speed up the maceration they received 10 minutes of manual pigeage from Regis Pichon.