chardonnay - step 1 The harvest
The "ban de vndanges" is the legal starting date of the harvest and is specific to each appellation. After the legal date has been announced, each domaine has the liberty to organize its own harvest based on the maturity of the grapes in their vineyards. Analysis can be done to establish grape maturity (richness of sugar, acidity, etc.) which helps to determine the harvest date.
The proportion of machine-picked grapes increases yearly, essentially for economic reasons (two to three times less expensive than hand picking), but mechanical harvest also allows logistical flexibility. Nonetheless many domaines concerned with quality continue to hand pick. The grapes are taken to the "cuverie" (the winery) in plastic perforated cases(1) or in large bins.
Sorting tables (2) are not used systematically, but allow the grapes to drain if they have been picked in the rain, and also allow for rotten or damaged grapes to be eliminated which could otherwise compromise the quality of the wine. Many estates do the sorting in the vineyard during the picking.