The grape harvest in Burgundy has begun! Sue Boxell from "Burgundy on a Plate" wine tours sent this photo yesterday. I'm currently finishing up one of my LAST round of edits for "My Grape Village" which will be published next month. I'm at that stage where I feel as one writer friend put it, as though somebody has locked me in a dark closet and is forcing me to smoke every single page of my manuscript without a break! The same day that Sue sent this photo I was editing this scene of Charlotte and Camille taking part in the harvest shortly after our move back to Burgundy. I thought you might enjoy the excerpt!
Hand in hand, with the girls skipping in front of us, casting up the ochre vineyard dust, we made our way over to the harvesters. They were a motley crew, dressed in filthy clothes, with T-shirts or shorts tied around their heads to protect them from sunstroke. I knew that some of them were probably doctors and lawyers or other well-heeled friends of the winemaker who came and did the harvest every year, picking side by side with backpacking teenagers and unemployed youth. Harvesting was the great equalizer and they would all be complaining about the heat of the beating sun and sore backs from kneeling down in the dirt all day long.
Unlabeled bottles of wine were being passed up and down the rows. Charlotte and Camille stood at the head of the row, wide-eyed and tiaras askew.
“Do you want to try to harvest some grapes?” A man with an impressive girth and a pink t-shirt wrapped around his head came over and kneeled down beside the girls. He held out his wickedly sharp shears.
“Go ahead,” I said, while Franck began chatting with another bare-chested man wearing a fraying straw hat. Franck and he seemed to vaguely know each other. I watched as the pink T-shirt man took Camille and Charlotte half way down the row and showed them how to separate the grape bunches from one another and where to cut the grapes off the vine. They cut off several bunches each until the man’s bucket was full.
He kept up a constant stream of chatter and the girls occasionally nodded yes or no and Charlotte even squeaked out an occasional oui. When he asked them if they were from Savigny the girls shook their heads and Charlotte whispered “Non. Nous sommes Canadiennes.”
“Canada!” he exclaimed, then stood up and shouted out to his fellow harvesters “We have little girls here that have come all the way from Canada to help us with the harvest. Everybody say bonjour to les petites canadiennes!”
Everyone shouted bonjour and Charlotte and Camille were immediately swept into the team of harvesters. My girls snipped off grapes, helped haul buckets to the tractor and then, when that was full, they were invited to ride on the tractor that was festooned with grape vines back to the village.
Franck and I followed behind on foot through the vineyards.
“Did you know that guy you were talking too?” I asked.
“Vaguely. Turns out he’s a distant cousin, maybe second or third cousin. We couldn’t really figure it out.” This happened often since we arrived in Burgundy. Sometimes I wondered whether Franck wasn’t related in one way or another to most of the people here.
The tractor wove through the narrow streets and into the cuverie at a local winemaker’s family Domaine where the grapes were dumped out on the sorting table. We were all given a glass of freshly pressed grape juice to sip, although our new friend used imaginative miming to explain to the girls that they had to be careful not to drink too much or else they would get an explosive case of diarrhea.
About two hours later we all wandered out of the massive cuverie, Camille and Charlotte both wearing crowns of grape leaves and vines laid over their tiaras. They were smiling from ear to ear.