La vendange, once again

Don’t forget to click on the photos to enlarge them. 

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 backbreaking 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 photographed, 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 (Cornelis) 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

55 thoughts on “La vendange, once again

  1. It brings back a lot of memories! i did the ‘vendanges’ 5 years in a row in the Beaujolais. It was very hard work, but also a lot of fun. It was also a good way to make some money before the start of the new academic year.

    1. I hate the summer to end, but the vendange is a soothing balm. Yes, it is hard work. It is also how a few neighbors met their husbands as they came from other parts of Europe for the vendange. 🙂

  2. Oh what a lovely post! My husband and I were just talking about seeing France. You said the vendange was in November. Is that the best time to come to enjoy the atmosphere of this event? Are there good, modest places to stay? It all sounds so exciting and nostalgic. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Actually it begins as early as August for some and November would be the latest. Right now it is in full force around here. It depends on the area, the weather and the type of grape. There are places to stay at both ends of the scale if you look around. Thank you for stopping by and come back and let me know if you have further questions.

      1. Yes it is fun, writing is fun. Have any of your books been translated into French? I would enjoy donating copies to our village library.

  3. Such fantastic photos and description of the grape harvest makes me want to open a bottle of wine and toast those hard workers who bring us such a wonderful treat. Cheers to a great week ahead.

    1. When you come to France, I will show you to the best, and it is only 8km from my house. Cheers to you and enjoy your weekend. Ours will soon be over.

  4. well, Léa, you’ve become more… French than other people I know, bravo & congrats!!! 🙂 ❤
    * * *
    bonne soirée et une semaine formidable! 🙂

    1. Merci beaucoup mon amie! I do try but trip all over my tongue. I’ve discovered more French writers that I am enjoying, Antoine Laurain and François de la Rochefoucauld ( the Maxims in French…) Hopefully, one day citizenship! That would be best of all. 🙂 ❤

      bonne soirée et une semaine formidable! 🙂

  5. Wonderful post, Léa! I’d never seen a grape harvest and this one looked fascinating, even though hard work. So nice you live in the country and can experience the cultural traditions. Warm wishes! 📚 Christine

    1. Thank you Christine. By the end of the week, our little village will be ripe with the scent of fermenting grapes and perhaps a bit of waoodsmoke? Though I was at the beach on Frida y, it is obvious that summer is past and the vendange is a balm as we slide into autumn. Thanks again and always good to hear from you. 🎨 Santé; Léa

    1. Yes, Lamborghini makes tractors and the man in the photo is a dear friend whom you would love. Cees has an MFA from his home University back in Holland, can play any instument in sight and cooks like a top class chef, I should know, I am on the regular invite list at his home. His partner is a lovely woman with degrees in Fine Art History and we share a love of cats, art and more.

    1. Only some are actually in a cave, it refers to a building where wine is made, bottled and kept. Here, our wine is excellent.

      1. I can’t think of one that isn’t in an ancient building with walls of stone at least three feet thick, a bit like my house. 😁

  6. Oh, I would love to visit France during the harvest and celebrations. Everything you write makes me want to travel, Lea. When I lived in Vermont, there was a teeny tiny vineyard down the road from us and they always needed help come harvest time. I have wonderful memories of that and the community fun that followed. 🙂 Beautiful photos!

    1. It is a wonderful time to be here and helps me adjust as I am a summer person. The closest I ever got to Vermont was the six years I lived in New York City. France is incomperable and I adore it. Thank you for your kind words regarding one of my blogs. I do hope you make the trip over and as great as Paris is, there is much more to see. 🙂

    1. For a small village, I couldn’t have imagined all that goes on. Currently it is still the vendange and wine festivals will run e;verywhere for weeks. Then it will be the chestnuts, Depending on where you go, you will be served piping hot chestnuts, hot off the fire and there will be wine… some villages offer a meal as well. I always go to a nearby village where they serve piping hot soup, trays of sausages and then the chestnuts are brought in. Outside a group from the village keep the fires burning and the chestnuts coming. 🙂

  7. I live in Southern California, and here and in other parts, wine grapes are grown too, and we do have some festivals, but not as you are describing. It is very nice to visit a winery though and afterwards, go for food and perhaps a bit more wine if you are spending the night. Thank you so much for sharing everything. It is so wonderful!!! Really makes me feel like the fall.

    1. Actually, I was born in Southern California and back then there were orange groves in abundance. I’ve visited vineyards in Napa and Sonoma but there is nothing like here. I’m glad if you enjoyed my small offering. Soon we shall be roasting chestnuts on outdoor fires and enjoying the with wine, food and friends…

      1. That is the best time of all. You write so well, you make it feel real. Honestly, I could almost smell the wine and the chestnuts roasting and imagine the good soups waiting.

      2. That first pot of soup for the weekend shall be made this weekend, no doubt. Although, I usually wait until it is a bit cooler… Thank you again for your kind words. Oh, I can already smell the chestnuts roasting… and the wine fermenting. There is also the constant presence of rosemary, lavendar, pine trees, this is paradise.

    1. It wasn’t until I moved here that I could truly appreciate autumn. I’ve always been a summer person and it will remain my favorite season. The Mediterranean is only minutes away and there is salt water in my veins. 😉

      1. Ah, I bet the Mediterranean is just beautiful. I love the sea too and used to live near it in San Pedro, CA and also in Long Beach, CA. I am not so sure I like summer much, but I do so love the sea. So many different moods there.

      2. I adore it. Back there, I would go to Newport Beach, Balboa, Corona del Mar… Before moving to France I lived several years in the North and would go to the beaches there. Spain is barely an hour away and there are lovely beaches there as well. Collioure is the most beautiful and Picasso, Van Gogh and many other great artists agreed. You can visit Collioure in an older post on the French site or just type it in on google. Stunning.

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