By Paul M.
As a passionate wine lover I have always dreamt to do the harvest of grapes. All the wine professionals I had a chance to meet told me the same thing: to understand the wine you have to know it from the roots.
Last autumn my dream came true.
For two days I was recruited as grape-picker in a vineyard of the Chinon designation in the Loire valley. The first day started very well. After a 3-hours long car journey, through the night, straight from Paris, I was greeted before the sunrise, by the locals, with heavy laughs and jokes. Only later I understood they were mocking my ride. A Renault Clio, borrowed from a girlfriend, covered with flower stickers!
The working day begins at 8am with a strong coffee. And what was a surprise to observe that nobody is eating before a hard day coming up. But I quickly understood why: the famous 10am break which actually arrives at 9:30. I never ate so much at this time of the day. Pâté, ham, bread, creamy cheese and… rosé wine!
Is it worth telling you that walking through the grapes is much more difficult after this kind of episode?
Finally, the lunch arrives, when you start feeling your legs. But after a good meal, nicely cooked by the wife of the owner, we can follow our dreams again. After two hours of hard cutting I was expecting another break. But, little did I know, nothing arrived. Only fields of grapes…
My legs were already shivering of tiredness when I realized that we would have no break in the afternoon. Really? Why was I so exhausted? Because I moved a lot. Walking, squatting, going up and down very quickly to reach the good grapes. Unfortunately, 2016 was a very bad year for Chinon. The grapes got frozen at the worst moment in spring, then the whole Loire valley saw the biggest flood in a century. This resulted in only 25 % of an average annual production. To give you an idea, during my two days of labour we had covered 5 days of average harvest in a normal year.
Finishing the first day, I was literally asking myself if I would be able to participate in the second day as my legs and my back were suffering so much! Finally, on day two, I found the energy to wake up and to work the entire day. But I have never suffered as much as this from my legs!!! For three days after the harvest I wasn’t able to take stairs and, even, to walk properly.
Despite it all, this unique experience taught me more about grapes and vineyards than any wine course would. Discovering the beauty of harvesting your future beverage only with your hands and a simple pair of scissors is priceless.
The background for this story was a vineyard owned by Pierre Sourdais in the village of Cravant-les-Côteaux which produces only Cabernet franc.
Check out Chinon wines for sale on Amazon here.