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Published:  23 July, 2008

With the harvest in most of the major wine regions being three to four weeks earlier than normal because of the exceptional summer weather, the French Minister of Agriculture, Herv Gaymard, has instructed departmental and regional authorities to take special measures to recruit seasonal workers (reports La Journe Vinicole). Many French workers are still on holiday, as the earliest harvest since the Revolution gets underway. According to regional newspaper Sud Ouest, in Bordeaux, Chteau Haut-Brion began picking its Sauvignon Blanc on 13 August, two days earlier than the previous record, preserved in the archives of brokers Tastet-Lawton. Such precocity is generally associated with high quality, especially for whites: grapes for the remarkable 1997 Haut-Brion Blanc were harvested on 18 August. However, Andr Lurton, ngociant, proprietor and president of the Pessac-Lognan appellation, cautioned that some vines may be suffering from heat and water stress. He said that it was necessary to start picking now to preserve acidity and fruit intensity, adding that ideally the grapes would be harvested at night (as often happens in the New World). As it was, picking at Haut-Brion started at 6.30am. The first reds were picked from 18 August onwards. Beaujolais also broke its previous record, 25 August, which has stood since 1893, by almost two weeks. Here hopes of good quality are also high, though the combined effects of frost and heat will mean low volumes.