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Thursday, 22 October 2009

The politics of picking

Feeling good today as we finished the harvest at Chateau de Pimpéan after what has been a hard but enjoyable week. This has been my first full harvest since we moved to France (Nigel's 2nd) and it has been good to participate on equal terms with other members of the team rather than just dipping in for the odd half day here and there.

The beginning of the day is always hard - it takes a while to warm up and get your eye in on the bunches, cutting quickly and moving on swiftly. Two members of the team tackle a row each, one on either side. You notice that some people work together better than others - chances are they have harvested together before, second guessing each other's moves well in advance. Cuts and grazes are fairly common for the first couple of days.

So this is where the competitive edge starts to kick in. As we move down the rows in teams of two, glances are cast to check who is going the fastest and who is lagging behind. It's irritating when you come in last and feels great when you finish first. And then we have the issue of emptying the buckets. Cries of 'seau' come thick and fast - just as you've got down on your knees again to collect some bunches hanging near the ground, the guy carrying the hod is after you again!

But any pressure you feel comes from yourself. In reality, the team works well together. Those that finish first come back and help those coming in behind. That way, everyone starts a new row at the same time. Sometimes you're first and sometimes you're last - it depends upon the time of day, how you're feeling and if your knees and back are bearing up to the strain well that day.

And what a great feeling at the end of each day to come away knowing that you've participated in one of the most important periods of the vineyard year. That cup of English tea has never tasted so good nor has the glass of two of wine in the evening after a long hot soak in the bath.

Tomorrow is our post-harvest party. Maryse will be lighting the old bread oven at Chateau de Pimpéan and we will be celebrating with a glass or two and some fouaces. We thought we'd take along a couple of bottles of Breaky Bottom from England to start off the evening. Will let you know how we get on.

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