The arrival of September is synonymous with the grape harvest in the Alsatian vineyard. I, for one, had always wanted to see from up close the wine harvest process. But how would I be able to do it, unless I knew a wine grower or I was hired as a grape harvester for the season? It is now possible to do so with the tourist grape harvest in Alsace.
I tested the activity “Vendangeur d’un jour” (Grape harvester for a day) organized by the Syndicate of Independent Wine Growers. The concept is quite simple: wine growers wishing to host a few tourists say so to the syndicate, tourists register and then come to take part in the grape harvest during half a day. Each wine grower organizes the activity as they like, but they all follow this program. There are participating wine growers all over the Alsace Wine Route
I went to the Domaine Burckel-Jung in Gertwiller, a family establishment producing organic wine. I arrived at 9 am and was kindly welcomed by Danielle, the estate’s owner with her husband Thierry and their son David. I received a pruner and then was lead in the vineyards, where Danielle explained the grape harvest process, how to cut grapes, how to be careful and get rid of grapes with rotten parts… It is then time to start!
The wine produced on this parcel is Crémant rosé and the grape is therefore black. I really enjoyed lifting the vine leaves and cutting big grape clusters. You will have to bend a lot to reach all the grapes and not to forget any. Despite my good will, I have to admit that I’m a lot slower than others: they were always catching up on me very fast! Of course, tourist grape harvest is all about taking your time, taking breaks to take pictures… After all, there is no imposed rhythm and you are only here to enjoy discovering wine harvesting !
Food is served around 11 am. Indeed, wine harvest is only during the morning at the Burckel-Jung Estate. Grape harvesters start at 8 am, take a break around 10.30/11 am and then start again until the beginning of the afternoon. Danielle brought what she calls a snack, but it was more like a real meal. On the menu that day, glazed ham baked slowly since the previous day, a potato salad and a fruit crumble. It was delicious!
After the meal, I went to visit the wine cellar with Danielle. Grapes picked in the morning are brought in trays. It is very interesting to learn about the different stages of its transformation. It’s a very long and complex process to be able to produce high quality wine!
My experience as a grape harvester for a day ended with a delicious tasting. I was offered a bottle of Crémant rosé (Danielle always gives a bottle related to the type of grapes you have worked on), as well as a diploma of grape harvester of the day. I spent an excellent morning and I have learnt so much. I really want to thank the Domaine Burckel-Jung for their welcome!
- Cutting grapes in the vineyards
- Discovering the grape harvest “from the inside”
- Visiting the wine cellar
I liked a little less
My pictures of the tourist grape harvest
The price for a morning or afternoon harvesting is 30€ or 45€ with the meal. In my case, it was only 30€, since the Burckel-Jung estate doesn’t charge for the snack, judging that it is not a real meal. In addition, they give a bottle of wine to all grape harvesters for a day (it’s not the case everywhere).
For those thinking that’s it’s crazy to pay to work, here is my take on it:
- You are only in the vineyards for 1 hour and then 2 hours. The rest of the time, someone takes care of you, gives you explanations, shows you around, makes taste you wine… and this person doesn’t do their own work in the meantime!
- Even when you cut grapes, your productivity is very low (you are not very fast, you take pictures…). Nothing to do with the pace of a seasonnal grape harvester which is trained quickly and work for days or weeks. This is frankly not work!
Days for tourist grape harvests
The beginning of grape harvests vary from year to year. Moreover, each estate decides when they can host grape harvesters for a day. You will have to ask and register with partner Tourist Offices, that you may found on this list
The Burckel-Jung estate is located 67 rue de Barr 67140 Gertwiller in:
- 35 km from Strasbourg (about 30 minutes drive)
- 42 km from Colmar (about 35 minutes drive)
- 84 km from Mulhouse (about 55 minutes)
By public transport
It’s not very practical, but you can still have a look on the website Vialsace