For wineries everywhere, harvest is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times of the year. The smells of freshly picked fruit, fermenting juice, and hearty communal meals fill the air, the prospect of a new vintage is front and center in everyone’s minds, and the sense of camaraderie amongst l’equipe is undeniable. However, harvest also provides some of the most back-breaking work (and character building moments!) out there. We recently got together as a team and reminisced over some of our favorite memories and lessons learned during our times working in the vines. Here’s a firsthand insight into our journeys!
What should someone know going into harvest for the first time?
“Picking grapes is hard work for real. It's physical, involving a lot of kneeling, standing, and crouching, but it's also a great celebratory ambiance that comes from a group of people working together. And of course, you can literally see the fruits of your labors.” - Josh Adler, Founder of Paris Wine Company
“The temperature could cool off significantly during the evenings and you should never wear short-shorts with white cloth sneakers that could get soaking wet (like I did!)” - Ryan Lim, Director of Supplier Relations.
“For winemakers, this is somewhat like giving birth (but with a longer pregnancy), and every detail counts. It's a ton of fun for harvesters, but pretty high stress for winemakers, so try not to antagonize them.” - Francesca Hansen David, Director of Distributor Relations.
“There will be blood, sweat, and tears-- sometimes all at the same time!” - Vicki Denig, Marketing Consultant
“It's a lot of fun, but it's also important work, so enjoy yourself, but still take it seriously.” - Adelina Musat, Export Assistant
What is a piece of advice you'd give to someone harvesting?
“Take your time and to ask questions if you’re not sure while picking. And don’t forget your sunblock!” - Ryan
“BYOW, Bring your own water, which is a good rule of thumb when in the vines at any point because it's not really a necessity in French wine country.” - Francesca
“It's not always sunny in September, so be prepared for rain and mud-- and bring comfortable clothing!” - Adelina
“Sit down whenever you’re given the chance! And layer your clothing. Mornings are generally chilly and afternoons can be sweltering!” - Vicki
“Be careful to not cut your fingers with the snips. And don't stay up too late.” - Josh
What is the hardest part of doing harvest?
“Your quads start to ache after a certain point-- and forget about it if you don't have good knees.” - Francesca
“The physical component! Muscles that you didn’t even know existed will hurt. Also, I thought harvesting uphill would be the most challenging, but going downhill is actually much harder. Balance is key!” - Vicki
“I've always found it quite enjoyable, and as a total dilettante, I've never done harvest for more than a few days. I imagine it would be more tiring to stay for a week or more.” - Josh
“Going to bed before midnight. Drink with caution, because you do not want to be the reason that everyone is waiting the next morning.” - Ryan Lim
“It's physical-- don't stay crouched too long, you'll get cramps!” - Adelina
What is one of your favorite harvest memories?
“One year, it was too wet to harvest grapes in the Jura, so we went mushroom hunting in the forest instead. We came back with baskets of girolles, cèpes, and even a small black truffle.” - Josh
“All of them. It's been a ton of fun harvesting with kids, actually, because they can run up and down the vines and "help" the harvesters. Try not to chop off any of those cute fingers, though.” - Francesca
“The lunch meals with everybody. There was always good food and good wine! Also, after my first harvest in Burgundy, they offered us three bottles of wine. One was a Pinot Noir (one of my first). I still remember it as the best Pinot Noir I’ve had!” - Adelina
“Every night at dinner, the family would teach me a word or phrase in the local slang. The winemaker and I also shared a deep love of chocolate, which we bonded over. He’d sneak me a piece from his secret stash with coffee after lunch!” - Vicki
“The breaking of bread - cooking and sharing a meal with different people from all walks of life is an integral part of a harvest. My favorite memory has to be cooking with fennel seeds, fig leaves, and wild carrots from the garden in Jura, then sharing it all with friends.” - Ryan Lim
What were some of the biggest takeaways from doing harvest?
“The unique atmosphere and the good vibes in the vines! There is a lot of sharing (moments, laughs, etc.) between everybody, too.” - Adelina
“Everyone is exhausted and therefore a bit on edge. Be patient with one another and don’t take things to heart. Also, harvest is HARD WORK. Makes you appreciate any given bottle of wine that much more, once you see all that goes into it.” - Vicki
“We've discovered some very cool wines during harvest dinners. It's a cool occasion to share fun bottles with curious wine people without any of the city pressure.” - Francesca
“During my first harvest, I learned very quickly that winemaking is so much more than a few categories of soil types, fermentation methods, and aging processes! There are micro-decisions that winemakers make at each turn, and I found it inspiring that in a very minuscule way, we get to contribute to the bigger picture.” - Ryan Lim
“The ambiance during harvest is always something magical that only happens during that time. It's always a mix of people from different places who are there for different reasons, and of course, there's always great food and plenty of wine to drink.” - Josh
Would you do harvest again?
“Absolutely! Without a doubt.” - Vicki
“I've been harvesting with friends for a weekend in the Jura every year since 2010, so it seems like a given by this point.” - Josh
“Is that even a question? I was devastated when I was too pregnant to harvest last year!” - Francesca
“I’d love to.” - Adelina
“I am headed my way down to Limoux for harvest at Domaine de Mouscaillo as I write!” - Ryan Lim