Pick Grapes, Eat, Sleep, Pick Grapes, Eat, Sleep
Oct 1, 2005
We are in Eguisheim in the Alsace region of France. We are north of the Alps and can see Germany's Black Forest from the hills around town. We came here to work the wine harvest and work it is!
We get up everyday around 7ish, have a quick coffee and a chunk of baguette, throw on our waterproof pants, jacket, and boots, and head to the vines at 7:45.
Then we pick. There are two or three people to a row and generally you work both sides. You move down with a bucket and clippers throwing in the good grapes. Discerning good grapes is not as easy as you would think. There are young grapes that aren't good for the wine, but look the same as the good grapes and there is good rot and bad rot. I was told that Chris is not a good selecter the other day... luckily he can't understand anything. When a bucket gets full you call out for an empty, all the buckets get passed to the center where they are emptied into a bin that the trackter then takes to a larger machine like think that will take the grapes back to the cave and squish them.
We do this till around 9. Then a table is set up in the vines and we have coffee and a snack. Then we work till around 12. At 12, we head back, hose ourselves down and sit down at a long table. For lunch there is wine and water-flat or bubbly, soup, then a second course of something local like fresh ham and potatoes or pasta and beef bourgnone (no idea how we spell that in english). Then we get cheese and coffee, a few minutes rest. And back to the fields. We pick all afternoon.
Around 5 or 6 we come back exhausted. Often you have to dig through the leaves to find the grapes, there's much digging to get them out, and a lot of bucket passing. It makes for sore fingers and backs. Not to mention it stains your hands like bad bruises. We hose ourselves off again. We have a snack of coffee and cake. Hit the showers, eat lunch leftovers for dinner. Chris and I take a walk so he can have some all english time, if we're not to wiped out. And we're in bed early so as to do it all again the next day. We've got one more week, then the harvest is over and the work continues without us.
The town we are in has been voted one of the most beautiful towns in France. And truly it is. The cobblestone streets are lined with Alsation houses with exposed wooden beams and painted bright colors. Every window is brightened with colorful flowers hanging towards the fountains tucked in many corners. The family we are working for is lovely. The have 2 inns, we're staying in one, and run a small winery (Vins d'Alsace, Jean-Luc Meyer). They have two kids and one is now learning to take over the family business as Jean-Luc did from his father. The other harvesters were a complete surprise to us. There are a couple of kids who just finished their studies or are in between jobs but for the most part they are 50-60 year old ladies who have been harvesting with this family for decades. They're lovely and spend all their breaks giggling and teasing each other with ease of old, dear friends.
Only the mother of the family speaks English and we have opted for French. So, we're learning a lot but we also miss a lot of things that happen. Poor Chris spends most of the day in the dark. And we are not good harvesters. We figure we are free and we do our best, but we are never the first to fill our buckets and we always have questions about what grapes to pick.
All in all it is something very different for us and we're really just enjoying playing in someone else's shoes for two weeks while we have the opportunity to do so.