Working The Burgundy Grape Harvest
“Its 8:30 in the morning and an autumnal chill remains in the air from the night before. The sun is doing its best to burn off the low-lying mist that clings to the fields and gullies of the Cote D ‘Or.
Beams of sunlight gradually break the day, spotlighting the lichen and moss that cling to ancient dry-stone walls and the bold colours of autumn begin to sing. A rough carpet of deep reds, purples, ochre, and gold stretches as far as I can see and the astonishing natural beauty of this celebrated wine region has caught me off guard again. Gazing dumbfounded at this age-old image in front of me, I forget my purpose for being here at this early hour.
Get to know the men and women who make the wine.
The assertive voice of the vigneron I am working for reminds me why I am here and reluctantly I slip out of sight below the row of vines to my left. Down here the world looks very different. Drops of dew cling to delicate cobwebs while harvest spiders scramble for cover. The damp air hangs amongst the vine stock and the rich earth hangs heavy on my rubber boots. Moving amongst the wet vines my shorts and shirt are wet and cling to my body. My back is all ready complaining about another day of this repetitive work. Focusing on my prize, I handle a heavy bunch of plump red grapes and…snip! The bunch joins the dozens others in the basket by my feet and, edging uncomfortably forward, I move to the next vine in the endless row of Pinot Noir ahead of me. Only another seven days to go….
When not picking grapes in the Burgundy harvest and working as a lead guide for DuVine Adventures, clients often ask me when the best time to visit Burgundy is. In the spring you see the grapes in flower and witness the lively village wine fetes. In mid-summer the warm sun ripens the grapes in front of you. But for a real idea of the work and energy that goes into making the world’s greatest wine, a trip in early autumn to witness the harvest is a must for any oenophile.
Maybe even give them a hand.
Transformed from its usual calmness for the few days the harvest takes place, the vines become a hive of human activity. Teams of pickers work lines of vines with locust-like efficiency. Porters carry “hods” overflowing with fruit and tractors with full trailers rush between the fields and the winery. This grape harvest has been taking places in this region for millennia, and most vineyards still insist on picking their precious crop by hand. Workers still travel from all over Europe to pick and carry the grapes, while many are locals who involve themselves in this historic get-together year after year. The work is not easy but the camaraderie is overwhelming. Working together, eating together, drinking together, and sleeping together, the energy of the harvest is rewarding and addictive.
In my opinion, witnessing the wine harvest is a must for any real wine lover. At DuVine Adventures we won’t force you into the fields to pick any grapes, but book a cycling tour in Burgundy with us or any other of our European wine regions and we guarantee you’ll experience the true nature of this important annual event first hand.”