La vendange

Fruit of the vine
Fruit of the vine

It seems that most everyone here is involved in La vendange (grape harvest).

Sunshine on our shoulder...
Sunshine on our shoulder…

More grapes are grown in this region than anywhere else in France.  Even before the last of the grapes are picked, the celebrations begin.  The festivities seem to never end as each village hosts its own so there is always one to attend, throughout November, and sample the wares.

While it seems that increasing numbers are being picked by machine, much of the land here is just too steep for them. It is back breaking work and the cutters used to take the fruit are very sharp.

It is almost a rite of passage that young people from other parts of Europe head down to the vineyards of France to pick grapes and enjoy the country. At the end of the vendange, our village hosts a dance. The wine festivals come later but since there is no set time for vignerons to begin their harvest, it will usually stagger over the months of September through early November. There are places like Leucate where they produce a Muscat (often very sweet) and begin in the August heat!

The vendange I followed and photograped took place in the tiny village of Embres. It is only a few kilometers from my village and they produce one of the best wines around. My friend Cees (Corneilus) insists Embres wine is the best! They produce a

Embres - vin cave
Embres – vin cave

range of reds, white and delicious rosé.  He will not get any argument from me.  While it would have been lovely to get inside the vin cave to photograph the process, it is just to busy and I would have only been in the way.  Perhaps there will be a future post inside? During the vendange, you can barely get into the little shop where you can buy a bottle of Trois, Pompador or any of their other delicious wines.

One of the pickers is a charming woman named Paloma who was asked to help out a few years ago and said she would give it a go! While many of the pickers are young, they are by no means the entire force. At the beginning of the day, Cees walked up to Paloma and tried to secure a lovely pink rose in her hair. With all the bending, it didn’t last too long but was a lovely thought.

On this team, there were two porters, Cees and Yost. They walk about the vineyard with a large plastic container strapped to their backs. They must keep an eye out for the smaller buckets of the pickers

Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma's hair
Cees attempts to secure a large pink rose in Paloma’s hair

which fill rapidly with the grapes and need to be emptied and carried off to the waiting trailers. Each of the containers holds between 50 to 60 kilos of grapes. Imagine yourself carrying around over 100 pounds extra on your back in the hot sun all day.

There was evidence of feasting by sangliers (wild boars) they can do a lot of damage to the vineyards. One local hunter went as far as to have one stuffed and mounted on the roof of his bergerie (sheepfold) where he lives. The unlucky sanglier will end up on a plate and are considered good eating.  Yes! People do live in old bergeries here. They buy them, renovate and sometimes extend the sheepfold into charming and comfortable homes. However, that just may be another post?

Bisous et bonnes santés,


Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Michele, leader of this group of vendangers
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Sanglier on the rooftop of a bergerie just outside Embres
Raisins (French for grapes)
Raisins (French for grapes)
The other porter on this team, Yost
The other porter on this team, Yost
Cees and his Lamborghini
Cees and his Lamborghini

21 thoughts on “La vendange

  1. What a great post, Lea. I had no idea that wild boar had a thing for vineyards … and how on earth did that one get up on the roof?
    I especially like Cees Lamborghini 🙂

    1. The sanglier had eaten too many grapes and the hunter decided to stuff him and put him on display. I’ve only see one up fairly close while driving back from Embres one night. It was in a vineyard near the road and took time from his repast to stare at me.

      Yes, Cees Lamborghini, I couldn’t resist! 🙂

  2. Beautiful golden autumn photos! It sounds like a lot of work but it also sounds like the results are worth it. If I had to carry 100 pounds of grapes on my back, I’d be tempted to eat them just to lighten my load. I’m glad a few make it back to be turned into wine though. Happy harvesting!

    1. Fortunately, many grapes survive and are turned into the most wonderful wine. I do my part by taking photos and drinking the wine! Everyone contributes… 🙂
      In our small village of just under 700, there are at least 12 vin caves and many more growers that sell to cooperatives or make wine for their own use. It is the south of France.

  3. Great post Lea! And even though it all looks and sounds wonderful, it is one place Im afraid I would feel rather uncomfortable in. I have no desire to take even one sip of alcohol, but I never place myself in a potentially dangerous (for me) position. One sip would be one too many Im afraid!!





    1. While I do understand Christine, you might enjoy wandering about in the vineyards soaking up the sun and munching on the delicious grapes… 🙂
      There is no wine out there as there is too much work to be done.


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