Rheingau Grape Harvest
4 October 1999

to follow is the story of our experiences harvesting grapes in germany.

setting: autumn in rheingau region of germany where hills cause the river rhein to turn from its northward direction to westward and after a distance it goes north again. the south facing hills of rheingau are perfect for growing grapes. some days are rainy but most are clear and crisp, a little cold in the mornings but nice midday.

we weren't sure what to expect when we left bonn and headed south to eltville. we thought we might be staying in something akin to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, 20 minutes walk from a town. we borrowed sleeping bags and pads and were expecting a space on the floor. we didn't know the people we were going to be staying with and had no idea what to espect.

we were pleasantly surprised.

eltville is a town with a small pedestrian shopping area and a castle located on the river rhein. it is completely surrounded by vinyards. it is largely populated by wineries and their owners. we were at the hirt-albrecht winery, a couple of blocks from the train station and the pedestrian area.

our hosts were wonderful. we had a room to ourselves with mattresses. the weingut, michael, and his girlfriend, eva, are both very considerate and giving people. michael is very passionate about organic farming and other related issues so we all got on very well.

when we arrived we were informed that we would have three days off after our first day. this was great. we had a place to stay and time to explore the surrounding area. we visited nearby mainz, darmstadt, wiesbaden, and ruedesheim. we also got to have a day just wandering the surrounding vinyards and towns. we didn't do all of this in three days though. we had a couple of other days off as well in the course of the two weeks we were there.

the harvesting wes pretty fun. it sounds romantic and except for the aching muscles and cut fingers it is! we got up in the morning and breakfast was bread and spreads on the table. we put together cheese sandwiches for lunch and headed out. we borrowed rubber boots and piled onto the wagons and tractors to head out to the vinyards. it was usually about a 10 minute ride. i don't know that i had ever riden behind a tractor before and i was a big excited city-kid about it the first day. when we got to our starting site we would all pile out, get a bucket and a pair of shears, and wait to be shown our starting row. the next 15 to 90 minutes was spent hunched over or kneeling down, searching through leaves and vines to make sure we had every group of grapes off the vine and no clipped fingers. we weren't always successful in either of these. usually a row would take about an hour. mrk. and i were partnered so that i was on one side of the row and he was on the other and we would try not to cut each others fingers. we managed to only cut our own. after cutting for a few minutes our buckets would be filled and someone would come along with a huge bucket backpacked on his back for us to empty ours into.

we would usually move to a second site and sometimes a third during the course of the day. this was always a relaxing break. the best thing everyday was lunch. we would sit outside with our sandwiches drinking the grapejuice from the grapes we picked our first day. of course everyone else drank wine that was provided. it was so nice and relaxing and beautiful to all senses. it was alsways easier to work after that.

some of the views from the hills we were on were beautiful. it was hard to stay on task! overall it was wonderful!

the last day was the hardest and the best, but i will send this so it doesn't get eaten and because i just got kicked off the computer!

© Copyright Cheryln Crowl 1999