The truth about vineyard work

The truth about vineyard work

I bet you’ve sat down one Summer’s evening with a glass of white or red and pictured the vines from whence the sacred drop came, twisting over picturesque hills in the sunset. Maybe you’ve even imagined doing a satisfying day’s work in that vineyard; harvesting gorgeous bunches of fat grapes bursting with sweet juice, and coming home to a rustic feast, complete with grape and grain from your very own land.

Vines as far as the eye can see
Vines as far as the eye can see

These mental pictures are certainly lovely, and sometimes when I see the vines in their neat rows, buds bursting fresh and green, I am tempted to think the same way. But it doesn’t last long. It’s too easy to remember that particular shoulder and upper arm pain that comes from hours upon hours of repetitive up and down motion at chest and shoulder height, working through hundreds of vines in one day.

You see, the very magnitude of vines which makes the vineyard look so magnificent when hit by the sun’s dying rays, is the very same magnitude of vines that the poor bugger who owns the vineyard has to prune, pull out, tie down, remove watershoots from, irrigate through summer, monitor for diseases and spray if needed.

Elizabeth and Aoife pruning
Elizabeth and Aoife pruning

And this list doesn’t include all the maintenance to the trellising system, the weed control, pest control, bird protection and general vine health necessary to get the vines to produce even one tiny bunch of grapes fit for processing into wine.

In a commercial vineyard, there are full-time staff to look after many of these matters. In a family operated business, it’s a  different story. Sometimes, on a fine spring day, I look up and see that I am all but lost in a forest of vines. I can’t see the beginning of the row where I started, and the end is not yet in sight either. Honestly, it’s enough to make grown men weep.

A little help...
A little help…

Of course, vineyard work is also very conducive to long and rambling conversations that pick up were they left off when you next meet your partner in a row. This sort of company is sadly lacking in many other areas of life. Harvest especially, is a wonderful time of year, full of friends, family, shared meals and lots of samples of our own produce. We feel so lucky to enjoy these times together (especially knowing that corporates pay good money to replicate these experiences in the name of ‘team building’). And we are always grateful to the volunteers who step out of their own busy lives to give us a hand every now and then. We’ve had some great days together!

But when you next take a sip of our Rosé or Pinot, remember the poor vigneron’s wife tramping up and down the rows, trying to distract the kids so they don’t poke each other with secateurs or cut through the irrigation line. Then be glad that you’re not her, and enjoy your meal!