At this time of year, some winemakers in Burgundy say, the season's tasks are best performed under a rising moon. Many of these vignerons will be leaving their beds long before dawn. And when they start work, they'll strip naked.
Now this scene may sound as if it came straight from one of those mud-caked French movies--Jean de Florette, say, or The Return of Martin Guerre--that will use even the most thinly disguised pretext to get Gérard Depardieu out of his britches. But, believe it or not, nudity has become a cutting-edge, ultrafashionable winemaking technique. And you're as likely to see it in California, Australia or New Zealand as you are in a small Burgundian village.
Something weird is happening in the world of wine. Until quite recently, producers would boast about their stainless steel tanks, pure yeast strains, high-tech filters and chemicals, and, above all, their lengthy scientific training. Today, however, many an ambitious winemaker will be more eager to tell you about the amount of time he spends plowing his fields with a horse or calculating the cycles of the moon; he may even tell you about achieving excellent results with a form of pigeage that calls for plunging completely naked into an old-fashioned open-top fermentor.