Grape Picking in the Beaujolais
Just in time for the harvest, we drove North from Spain towards the Beaujolais wine region with hopes of picking grapes and drinking wine. We were aware that it was 'harvest' season but we were not expecting to see the crazy buzz that filled the region. Each little wine town was filled with hoards of wandering & waiting people sleeping in tents & cars just waiting to be put to work. Some were homeless, others were hippies, some were a bit crazy, and many were world travelers; all with the same idea to pick beaujolais grapes!
As we drove around the region, we saw vines dripping with lush purple grapes, teams of bent over pickers, and overflowing truckloads of grapes. The beaujolais harvest season had begun!
Our initial plan was to find a job with 'Operation Vendanges,' an agency that hires pickers for the wine chateaus, however, as an American I could not 'legally' use their service.
That evening, we stayed at a winemaker's campsite in hopes that he may serendipitously invite us to participate in their harvest. Unfortunately, his pickers were already hired but he did suggest that we ask at the local tobacco shops and bars. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a beautiful evening on his land and a glass of his sparkling wine.
The next morning, we began the search for a welcoming chateau. Following signs from one wine village to the next and the recommendation of the winemaker, we asked for tips at the local bars, tobacco shops and cave cooperatives.
In Villié Morgon, we spoke to a friendly barman who gave us the name of a family-run chateau nearby: Georges Descombes. Nervously we knocked on their door and were greeted by a pretty French woman who said, 'Sure!' and asked us to return on Sunday, in 4 days.
We took advantage of the extra time (and our speedy camper) and drove to the mountains! We ended up in Le Châtelard, a picturesque and quaint mountain village in the Savoie region of France. We spent the sunny days hiking through open fields, sitting by a waterfall, picking wildflowers and cooking on the campsites' amazing open flame grill.
LE CHÂTELARD, SAVOIE REGION, FRANCE
These beautiful Savoie cows make some of the best cheese we've ever tasted! Mmmmm...
From Le Châtelard, we took a day trip to Lac d'Annecy where we took a chilly dip in the lake and soaked in the view. Stunning!
BACK TO THE BEAUJOLAIS!
After three breathtaking & beautiful days in the mountains, we were ready to begin the harvest!
Once we returned to Villié Morgon, we parked the camper on the Georges Descombes estate with this magnificent view of the neighboring village. The week that followed was one of the hardest but most rewarding times we've ever experienced. The work was back breaking but the friendships made and moments had were well worth it!
Working in a field for 8 hours a day with a nearly broken back bonds people I guess. ;)
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PICKER...
- 6:15am - breakfast (bread & coffee)
- 6:45am - load the bus and drive to the field
- 7am (sunrise) - Grape picking begins!
- 9-9:15am - snack & wine break (bread, brie, charcuterie, chocolate & wine)
- 9:15-1pm - Grape picking
- 1-2pm - lunch break with pickers (including wine)
- 2-5pm - Grape picking
- 6pm - Dinner with pickers
- 7pm - Wine & social hour at the picker's table
- 9pm - Bedtime!
After a day's hard work back at the camper...
One afternoon after a long day of picking in the sun, I found a bird's nest nestled in the middle of a vine. Once I clipped the rope holding the vine together, it revealed something so special. Tiredly, I cut into the vine in search of grapes but instead I found a beautiful natural creation. This hidden treasure rejuvenated me for the rest of the day.
In the same way, grape picking was exhausting but by the end of the week, after clipping away judgements and insecurities, we made friendships to last a lifetime, the most beautiful creation of all.
Stories from the Alps and the Black Forest coming up in the last chapter from the European tour!