The wine harvest in Provence is in full-swing and this past week I was lucky enough to witness a morning at the wonderful Domaine Roche-Audran in Buisson, 23 km north-east of Orange and 9 km from Vaison-la-Romaine. Via the D975 and then the D20, on the northern edge of the Vaucluse.
During the months of September through beginning of October, Provence undergoes a strange transformation. As if awakening from a sleepy cicada buzzing summer snooze to bubbling anticipation of something very important. Slowly one notices activity within the vineyards that for months have been left alone to bask in the summer sun… Farmers begin to take over the roads as everyone awaits the beginning of the grape harvesting, in French called ‘La Vendange’.
Machine or Hand-Picked
The exact dates of the harvest are of course not known in advance. Having the touch for selecting the auspicious and precise day to begin the harvest process is a best kept secret of those in the grape business. Much depends on how much sun and rain the region has had throughout the year. Even the time of day to pick the grapes is a highly sensitive matter and it is not rare to find harvesting in the middle of night when the temperatures are at their lowest. While many of the larger vineyards use massive machines to collect their bounty, many smaller domains such as Domaine Roche-Audran in Buisson still pride themselves in hand-picking their grapes.
The three major requirements are being legal, in shape and with transportation.
A “contrat vendanges”, or “harvest contract”, typically lasts from 8 to 15 days and gives you the privilege of strenuously toiling in all weather conditions for 35 to 39 hours per week for minimum wage.
What’s not to love?
Moreover, you will not only harvest some of the world’s most prized grapes, but also make new like-minded friends from all over the world. If the actual activity still does not appeal to you, you can always attend some local celebrations of that time-honored French tradition without any physical harm. 🙂
Wine & Harvest Routes
The grape harvest will continue through October with many opportunities to either take part in the process, or capture “the take”. For the time being, I think I’ll be doing more of the later, but if you’re in Provence, make sure to check out the website ‘Routes des Vins de Provence‘ (in French & English). Thirty-three wine routes have been “mapped” to guide tourists through the vineyards of Provence. The routes include 350 wineries around the region and the site regularly advertises local festivals and tasting events.
Talk About Tasting…
Merci pour votre attention et à la prochaine! Thank you for your attention and till next time!