Harvest Time

A thousand kilos of grapes picked seems to me like a good morning’s work. Mind you, I didn’t do it alone.

When you have friends who own a vineyard you can expect to be pressed into service at certain times. Until this year I had never been in Germany for the harvest.

Yesterday’s total was actually 1,005 kilos, a little over a ton if you think of things that way. I think that works out to about 200 kilos per person, which would be a lot if you tried to lift it all at once, but wasn’t as tough as I expected when you are lifting one bunch at a time.

The bigger hazard was cutting yourself with the very sharp scissors used to cut the grapes from the vines. There was a lecture for the rookies on safety, and I was extra careful. Nobody wants blood in their wine.

Much of the harvesting is done by machine, something I hope to maybe observe next week. Where I was Friday though the vines are planted too close together for the harvester to go between the rows. With some grape varieties it is also preferable to harvest by hand.

Picking grapes is a community endeavor. One of the traditions of the harvest is that at the end of the morning’s picking (or afternoon picking) there is a meal for all those who have helped. I suspect that is a tradition of grape growing areas everywhere.

Where I live there is more to the communal aspect than just the meal at the end of the day’s work. The grapes are delivered to a co-op winery to be weighed and processed.

That is how I know exactly what was picked Friday – the grapes are weighed as they come in. I didn’t ask, but I would expect the weight brought in (and maybe the grape variety) is used to determine each farmer’s share of profits.

I am told the co-op tells the farmers what varieties of grape they should plant, which influences what types of wine will be produced. Which means someone has to guess what the market will be, not just for the coming year but for the far future.

The grapes I was picking Friday will be used to make a pinot noir wine. The grapevines themselves are thirty years old, and could easily last another twenty.

That”s a long time to be committed to one variety – more than the working life of some farmers. I guess the farmers hope public tastes don’t change.

Friday I was helping my friends with their harvest. Next week, if I like, I can help some of their friends. It’s a community effort, a lot of work (my shoulders are sore as I write this) – and a lot of fun.

I’m hoping my schedule will allow me to do it again.


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