We arrived early September to great sunny days. As we settle in our annual home in France in Monthelie we are greeted by our two peach trees in the backyard laden with delicious peaches. The aroma as we walk in the backyard is overwhelmingly sweet. In a week, the talk of harvest dates is everywhere as wineries plan their harvest – Sunday, no Monday, that day is the worst day according to the lunar calendar…and the conversations and opinions go on. White caravans descend on the green landscape bringing pickers from all over Europe: Paris, Tuscany, Poland and further. These caravans bring the annual pickers who work and play hard during the Burgundian harvest. The weather watchers anxiously wait till the fruit is ready to pick. To go too early means fruit will be too acidic, to go too late would make the wine too sweet and ripe...frost, too much sunshine, rain, all have issues. The seasoned winemakers say nothing, almost not willing to test the weather gods, as their whole years work can depend on the right harvest conditions.
Then suddenly, the vineyards are dotted with the pickers out in the vineyards, it’s time. Pickers and little white vans are all out in force, dotting the slopes. The entire region is a buzz with vans, trucks and harvesting machines. It is quite amazing when all of Burgundy dedicates itself to this annual collaborative thing – harvest. Men and women from all walks of life in Burgundy are involved in some way. The markets where the lady of the winery is feeding scores of pickers for days, stocking up on food; the cafes and bars at night where they congregate after a long day working amongst the vines. The roads are dotted with the Burgundian heavy clay as harvesting machines drone along the narrow roads, slowly leaving their marks along all villages, your slow down for these men on their high machines as they can get about from vineyard to vineyard.
We picked in the morning, and sort and process in the afternoon. The work is good manual labour, and Jeff and I are the oldest in the group. The young pickers this year for Marchand & Burch are from Tuscany and have worked around the world following the trail of harvest from Northern Hemisphere to Southern Hemisphere. They are curious about us - Australians ah!!! Day after day, we get up and put on our boots as we prepare for a day of picking and more sorting.
Coming home at night tired and ravenous tucking into the cuisine of the region; Jambon Persille, pate en croute, cold meats, the customary bagette and some village Burgundy… delicious!