The traveler who happens on the back roads of Burgundy in eastern France will notice a certain amount of festivity during the late summer season of each year. It is after all a time of celebration, a time when cries of joy can be heard rising from the fields. It is the time of a vendage, the annual grape harvest where the first step in producing a premium wine is the picking of the sweet, juicy clusters of vine-ripened grapes. Even though the cutting off of clusters of grapes in a position which is far from ideal for the back, and hauling heavy baskets along between the rows is not exactly a restful occupation, the pickng of the grapes throughout Burgundy is a time-honored tradition.
Here, in contrast to many other wine-producing regions, there are no mechanical grape-picking machines. Everything is done by hand. Many of the pickers are students, retired people, or travelers, and a good portion have been coming to Burgundy for years-especially for the harvest. “I would not miss the grape harvest for anything,” says one retired worker, “I have been picking grapes for the same family for more than 20 years. Not only does this give me a chance to see friends, I also feel a sense of loyalty toward the family.