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