Merlot Harvest 2013, Palkonya, Hungary

Merlot Harvest 2013, Palkonya, Hungary

Merlot Harvest 2013, Palkonya, Hungary

This photo is the most telling of the day I spent at Haraszti Pince. Harvesting grapes is hard work, and there are no easy jobs.

If you’re Feri, the vintner, standing on the back of the truck, you get long breaks as you wait for buckets of grapes to come to you, but then you have to fill the collection bin, 8 kg at a time. You’ll be lifting that 8-kg bucket hundreds of times in a day. That’s a good workout.

If you’re the full-time winery employee, you walk between the rows, frequently crawling under the vines, hauling full buckets to Feri, taking the empties back to the pickers. Again, that’s carrying hundreds of 8-kg buckets and lifting them to the truck. And then, after the harvest, while the volunteers are enjoying a well-earned lunch, you’ll be feeding the press and blending must in various stages to make the wines.

If you’re the volunteers, usually friends or other vintners working in the spirit of co-opetition, you spend 8 hours or more cutting bunches of grapes into the buckets. You don’t have to carry too many of the buckets, but, as this photo makes obvious, you’re bent over. At a quick guess, I’d say that 70% of the grapes are below waist-level, and that will make your back tired.

After I spent a few hours taking pictures, I spent several more helping with all the jobs at the vineyard. I picked grapes into the buckets, hauled buckets, and tossed them into the back of truck. The work took me 35 years back to my grandparents’ wheat farm in Saskatchewan, where I’d spend some of my summer days helping to shovel grain, plow fields, and harvest the wheat. The plowing and harvesting were relatively “easy,” as you’re essentially driving in long, slow, straight lines, but hours on end in the driver’s seat is butt- and mind-numbing. Shoveling wheat, now that’s some serious work, standing in a stainless steel silo on a hot, midwestern day, pushing load after load of wheat into a grain auger that takes it up to the massive dump truck for hauling to the grain elevator at the train station. Dust and smoke fills the sauna-like air in the silo.

Tomorrow I’ll show you a couple action shots from the back of the tractor.

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