Becoming Vendangers – Good Hard Fun (Part 1)

Becoming Vendangers: A rainbow shots out of our colourful van

Lou and I are on a mission to experience authentic French culture as we travel the country in our little campervan. This is the first instalment in the tale of how we took a hard working holiday from ‘hashtag vanlife’ to help make some of the world’s most prestigious wine – A story of blood, sweat and Burgundy.  Read on to find out the what; the how and the why of becoming Vendangers. 

The beginning

No one dreams of doing hard, repetetive labour out in the fields do they? Or maybe you do if the fruits of those labours are your own? Like you, we’d never exactly dreamt of becoming Vendangers. We didn’t even know what a Vendanger was during our first few months in France. Despite this, of all the things Lou and I wanted to experience in France, becoming Vendangers ranked near the top. We wanted an authentic French experience and we needed to earn some money. So, becoming Vendangers in the heart of the world’s top producing wine country, fitted the bill perfectly.

In my former job as curator of a fine wine merchant I encountered a chance meeting with a dapper, middle-aged Frenchman. Bernard was the representative of a medium-sized Burgundy producer, there to taste some of his new wines with the staff. He was a friendly fellow and left me a half-bottle of 1967 vintage Gevrey-Chambertin from his own cellars. That’s some very expensive wine!

Having already planned our escape from the daily grind of London life, I knew my wife Lou and I would be travelling around France in our campervan the following year. With a planned career as a freelance writer in its fledgling stages and no regular income to support us, we were likely to be skint. I enquired with Bernard if his Domaine might have any temporary work available. He told me they always need workers for the annual harvest. He gave me his business card and I took a photo of us together for the shop’s Instagram feed. Thus, the seed was sewn for us to become Vendangers.

Becoming Vendangers: Me and Bernard for the first time
People that give you free wine are wonderful!

What is a Vendanger?

A ‘Vendange’ (noun) is a grape harvest. Specifically a grape harvest in France.  A Vendanger therefore, is someone who harvests grapes used to make wine. The Vendanges (plural), in Burgundy usually take place at the end of August and start of September. The harvest lasts for several weeks, but the exact date and length is dependant on the weather, how much the grapes have ripened and of course, how hard the Vendangers work.

What were our aims in becoming Vendangers?

France is the top wine exporting country in the world (Source: WTEx) and its 800,000 hectares of vineyards provide temporary employment for over half a million people (Source: France Diplomatie). It is also arguably the most famous wine producing country on the planet. So, becoming Vendangers – harvesting grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the other varieties that make up the myriad French wines consumed the world over, seemed like the perfect way to get hands-on involvement in an industry at the very core of French society.

Our second aim in becoming Vendangers was a necessary evil: Earn some money. We exist on a very limited budget and any income we can generate as we travel can provide a welcome antidote to the toil of living in a small van. Extra cash means we can do things like eat out, replace worn out clothing and carry out minor repairs.

We also hoped becoming Vendangers would provide a chance for us to sleep in a place other than our cosy, but ultimately cramped, van. The ‘rock-and-roll’ folding bed in Heidi is a sufficient, but less than ideal surface on which to rest tired bones. Maybe this was wishful thinking but we always imagined that becoming a Vendanger would mean we were given a place to sleep. A perk of the job as it were. Sooner or later, we’d find out.

More personally, although Lou is pretty much sorted for a ‘fall-back’ money earner (she loved her job as a private carer), I have to think about what I’m going to do for work if the travel blogging thing isn’t successful. Some people might consider that preparing to fail but I prefer to call it common sense. Augmenting my experience of the wine industry alongside indulging my passion for writing could hardly hurt. To be multi-skilled is the way forward.

What we never considered before embarking on this adventure was where it would lead us socially. We’ve been practically alone together for so long on our travels. a few months seems like an eternity. It’s OK because Lou and I are together but travelling in a camper rather than by mass transit isolates you from other people. Especially in a country where you don’t speak the language. So, before becoming Vendangers it never occurred to us that we might make friends who would teach us new things, alter the course of our travels and entertain us in ways we would never forget.

Why did we choose Burgundy?

We had considered other options for becoming Vendangers, such as another stint WWOOFing at a place in the Alsace. Of course, you don’t get paid for WWOOFing, so this would have negated one of our reasons for undertaking the work. Becoming Vendangers in Burgundy came about largely because of my chance meeting with Bernard. He’s General Director of Remoissenet, an ‘old-school’ Burgundy wine producer now rejuvenated under American ownership. Bernard was our ‘in’.

Being honest, we weren’t sure if it would come to pass. Our carefully budgeted monthly allowance and petrol-thirsty campervan mean we’re restricted in how far we can travel in a given time period. But, after a couple of months on the road Lou and I had a fix on what distance we could cover in the remaining weeks before harvest time. Happily, Burgundy (or Bourgogne as the French call it), was within touching distance. Around the middle of July 2017 we emailed Bernard, out of the blue, jogging his memory with that Instagram photo. Thankfully he recognised me and kindly put Lou and I in touch with the ‘Agro-Viticole’ department of Remoissenet. We were good to go!

Our friend’s advice? “Don’t do it!” Our foremost expectation: Pain!

Possibly the most prescient reason to harvest grapes in Burgundy is without doubt the prestige of the region. A map of Bourgogne, reads like a who’s who of famous wines. From Pommard to Puligny-Montrachet (mentioned in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’). Everyone’s heard of Chablis right? Chablis is a sub-region of Bourgogne, famed for it’s crisp, elegant white wine. Even if people don’t like chardonnay, they probably like Chablis.

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Let’s put it this way – If you had to spend three weeks crawling around in the muddy aisles of a vineyard, you’d want it to be the for the good stuff right? Not the five dollar a bottle supermarket wine (Admittedly much of which is harvested by machine). No. Burgundy is the real deal. Wine people will cellar for years. Even if Lou and I won’t be having children, maybe a molecule of us will live on in one of these bottles of Burgundy. Maybe this can be our legacy.

Our expectations

If we learned anything from our WWOOFing experience it was; do your homework. Apart from the obvious – it involved picking lots of grapes, we knew nothing about becoming Vendangers. We emailed copies of our passports, as requested, to Agro-Viticole with a load of questions:

  • When would the work start?
  • When would the work finish?
  • How many hours per day would we be working?
  • Would meals be included?
  • What did we need to bring with us?
  • Where would we be based?
  • What were the sleeping arrangements?
  • Would we be paid hourly or by weight of grapes?

Finally, in the last week of August we received an email in French from a man called Fred. Relying on Google Translate, all it said was that harvest would start on the 5th or 6th September and we had to be at a specific address in a village called Corgoloin a few days earlier where there would be beds for us. A few questions answered at least. We were particularly happy to hear about the beds. I couldn’t help be slightly disappointed that Corgoloin wasn’t a place synonymous with wine but at least it was just South of the well known Nuits Saint Georges.

From talking to the producers when we were in Champagne about how they conducted harvests, we were aware our days were likely to start very early but hopefully include a number of meals. However, we couldn’t be certain they did things the same way in Bourgogne and with over three thousand ‘Domaines’ each harvesting their own vineyards, surely they would differ in their approaches?

Reading various blogs about grape harvesting only added to our sense that this was a leap into the unknown. The most frequently used phrase to describe becoming Vendangers was, ‘back-breaking’. This sounded unpleasant for me and very worrying for Lou who has a ‘disk bulge’ in her spine that flares up occasionally with heavy lifting and is an almost constant source of ache. Our friend’s advice? “Don’t do it!” Our foremost expectation: Pain!

The other thing WWOOFing had taught us, is that spending long periods of time on your knees is rather painful. A quick trip to Intersport, a large chain of sports shops in France, and we each purchased a pair of kneepads, or genouilléres as they’re called out here. We had read that such ‘aides’ would be frowned  upon. Our attitude was, “Turn that frown upside down!” We knew our days would be long; We would be exceptionally tired.

Becoming Vendangers: Me in my kneepads
I look like an extra from Rollerball

 

We had seen with our own eyes in the vineyards of Alsace the proliferation of hornets suckling the sweet sugary nectar that hung from the vines. All the blogs warned of the likelihood of being stung. Flying, stinging insects are a pet hate of mine. I’m that guy in the beer garden smashing glasses with flailing arms as he attempts to avoid the agile army of wasps that invade every British summertime. Lou is somewhat less concerned about the insect factor of, her extra life experience meaning she knows how to deal with little pricks.

As for money, we weren’t so concerned about what we were paid, as long as we got paid. In 2017 the French minimum wage was 9.76EUR per hour. In UK terms £9.50.  This is more than £2 per hour above the pitiful UK minimum and just shy of the so-called ‘London living wage’. Not too shabby for unskilled labour we thought. Maybe we might get paid even more than that? After all, the prestige of Burgundy is matched by its premium price tag. In London you won’t find a bottle of Beaune for much less than 20 quid. If you want a Premier or Grand Cru then you’re looking at upwards of £50-£100.

After several days of driving from the Alsace, we arrived at what was to be our home for the next fortnight.

Day 1 – Arrival

It was a pleasantly sunny Friday afternoon when we pulled up outside the isolated building in nowheresville, Burgundy. We weren’t exactly sure this was meant to be the place, as the road name Fred had given us in the email didn’t exist. Typically for rural France, the single storey, 50s style building fronted by a gravel driveway and shielded from the road by a long hedge, was wide open with no one around. Parking our van immediately outside Lou and I walked up a flight of sandstone steps and entered through the open door, part of a floor-to ceiling window about seven metres across.

Inside were rows of varnished pine coloured benches against up against similarly styled tables. The place was arranged like an officers mess or a like a German beer festival, depending on your perspective. The number of seats, around a hundred, was the first clue we had to gauging the scale of the operation here. On the wall were some print-outs of photos headed ‘Vendanges 2011’. One featured a pair of girls each sucking one end of the same sausage. Several others featured naked men in vineyards, their modesty only protected by a vine leaf. So we guessed we had come to the right place. Or at least somewhere they knew how to have fun!

Sounds like they’ve got Sloth from ‘The Goonies’ chained up down here!

Looking for some signs of life we shouted ‘Bonjour’ in our best French accents. Expectantly we listened for a reply but none came. Hopefully it wasn’t the quality of our accents. We walked towards a frosted glass door towards the back of the room. A gentle push revealed a small rectangular room containing eight single beds. all unoccupied. At the other end an open door led to a small square room with a cooker, sink, refrigerator and dining table. Presumably a kitchen. Through this was another dorm style room with five single beds, a shower and toilet room. Adjoining this was a small room with only three single beds.

It felt like the Mary Celeste of youth hostels. If you’ve ever been to a youth hostel in South America or Asia, you’ll be familiar with the set up. Lou hasn’t experienced that side of travelling. Thankfully I recognised immediately that we would be sleeping in a dormitory style scenario and the rooms we were looking at were pretty decent as dorms go. Seemingly we were on the scene before anyone else. The pick of the beds was ours and we needed to make sure we nabbed them.

Returning to the mess hall in order to grab our stuff from the van, we bumped into two characters – A little blonde lady wearing sunglasses and a portly fellow with long curly hair, carrying cooking equipment. They seemed to speak little English but beckoned us through yet another doorway, down some stairs and into a basement. Immediately we heard loud, unintelligible noises coming from the darkness. A light was turned on to reveal a dingy room about fifteen or twenty metres long with single beds lined up on each side. The noise was emanating from the back of the room. I said to Lou, “Sounds like they’ve got Sloth from ‘The Goonies’ chained up down here!”

Following the little blonde lady and the big fella towards the noise, we glance at our surroundings. Clearly this was also a sleeping quarters. Like the ground floor, it too was apparently uninhabited but the ceiling was low, the light dim and the air moist. There must be twenty beds in close proximity. We do not want to end up sleeping in the basement. Unless it also contains a private ensuite with double bed of course.

It seemed like we’re the only ‘new’ people. This made us feel like outsiders at first.

Emerging from what might have been such a private bedroom, came the apparent source of the noise. Rather than Sloth from ‘The Goonies’  this was a youngish guy with curly brown hair, wearing only boxer shorts. He looked like Screech from 90s American teen comedy ‘Saved by the Bell’. Words were exchanged loudly amongst the three French people, but without anger as such. It was more as if the young guy was slightly annoyed about having his sleep disturbed. At four in the afternoon.

We mustered enough French to say hello and ask ‘French Screech’s’ name. He apologised in perfect English to tell us, “My English is shit. My name is Pierre”. We recognised him from the Vendanges 2011 photos upstairs on the wall. So presumably, Pierre knew his way around the place. He led us back upstairs on a kind of mis-guided tour and muttered enough ‘Franglish’ words that we were confident we could settle in whichever beds we chose. Obviously the room with only three beds and not too close or far from the bathroom. It wasn’t quite the Ritz but we were realistic enough to expect single beds. At least they weren’t bunks!

Having moved our bedding and toiletries from the van to what we called the ‘maison’ we had still many unanswered questions. Would we be fed tonight? Judging by the state of the kitchen in the basement this seemed unlikely. As the evening moved on a few more people arrived.

As we settled into our single beds, which were amazingly comfortable thank god, a group of three older looking French guys greeted us. One of them was in an England Rugby shirt. He says he’s from Brittany. Presumably explaining the rare confluence of Anglo-French relations there! That’s about all we can understand. We can’t understand French. They can’t speak English. We’re even! The trio of grey bearded folk are probably in their 60s. They look a bit put out. As if we might be in ‘their’ room. Well, a married couple trumps a group of three guys. Doesn’t it? They left and set up camp in the room that joins the mess hall and our little kitchen.

A nice Spanish couple arrived in to the dorm adjoining ours and outside a young French couple parked their campervan in the large gravel car park. While I was on a car park run Loic and Kalina invited me over to talk,  At first I was shy because I thought they would assume I was French and I cannot speak French. Happily it turned out that they both speak decent English. They have worked here before. Interesting!

By the end of the first day there are probably only ten people on site. It’s lucky that Lou and I have food (and wine), in the van as there is literally nothing except a petrol station nearby. And like most petrol stations in France it doesn’t have a shop.

The small communal kitchen in our relatively swish upstairs-quarters, gives us the perfect opportunity to meet the people we’ll be sweating, snoring and sharing a bathroom with for the next fortnight. The Spanish couple, Ursula and her friend Juan-Carlos, (Juanca for short – read that out loud), tell us it’s their third time harvesting grapes here. It seemed like we’re the only ‘new’ people. This made us feel like outsiders at first. However, we figured it was a good sign so many people were coming back year after year. They concurred that the conditions here were better than other places where grapes were harvested. We weren’t yet able to understand the reasons for this but we certainly would by the time the experience was over.

However, Juanca confirmed our fears (as if it wasn’t obvious enough), that the work is very painful. He told us how, after his first time becoming a Vendanger, he had swollen knees for a week. He said there are biting, stinging insects everywhere. I thought he was enjoying spooking us. Lou wass particularly nervous about the physical nature of the work. Apparently we will be doing eight hours per day and not only that, we will be working continuously, without a break for fifteen days. We’re really happy we bought those knee pads!

Later that evening we finally get to meet Fred. The apparent manager of this operation. He has our contracts, but only speaks a little English. Fred is a middle-aged Frenchman with a balding head, dark hair and a serious face. The contract is in French but clearly states we will be paid the minimum of 9.76 EUR per hour and will be working 35 hours per week. This is the maximum allowed under French law. (In France the workers have managed to maintain some rights). This doesn’t quite tally with the idea of working eight hours per day but we forget to question it, exhausted from the days adaptation.

Fred also confirms our working day will start at 7am with coffee and end at around 5pm; Food will be served in the vineyards at around 10am and for lunch; and whatever is leftover from lunch will be served for dinner. The bad news is that we may have to move bedroom as our room is normally reserved for old people. Lou practically turned on the waterworks when she heard this. We had much more privacy in this room and we feared the skanky conditions of the basement dorm may have be intended for newcomers such as ourselves. It was true that we could sleep in the van, but then we would have missed out on a major aspect of the experience (and a more comfortable bed). We awaited further news.

Day 2 – Getting to know Vous

We awake about half past six in the morning, our room flooded with light from the floor to ceiling windows. There were curtains but they weren’t quite wide enough or thick enough to inhibit the sun’s rays. If nothing else our body clocks were getting  good training. It’s a Saturday. We still didn’t know when our free meals will begin and Lou and I are both people that need more than coffee for breakfast. So, we drove the van to the nearest supermarket which is about 7km away in the town of Beaune. We spent 98 EUR on shopping. This included nine bottles of wine and a load of cheese. Just to be clear, we weren’t planning to drink our wine for breakfast.  No. They would be supplying the breakfast wine.

Driving back from the supermarket down the D974, a road with which we would become painfully familiar, we were battered by a heavy rain storm. A combination of slick windscreen, high winds and ancient mechanicals on our campervan resulted in the drivers-side wiper sliding too far and bending backwards around the side of the van. Emergency! It wasn’t the first time this had happened. Last time we were in the middle of six lane motorway. We thought the problem had been fixed when our mechanic back home tightened the wiper’s grip it’s rotating ball. Thankfully we were able to bend the wiper back into it’s proper place and the rain slowed quickly allowing us to continue our journey safely. Driving in heavy rain is not an option for us anymore!

Our journey so far through France has involved precious little rain. Burgundy seems different on this front. In the four first 48 hours in the region, rain sweeps in for about ten minutes every couple of hours or so. This is immediately followed by blazing sunshine. It’s a paradise of rainbows! Of course, it would be better if our Vendange was completely dry so we hoped this was a phenomenon that wouldn’t be present when the work started.

Becoming Vendangers: A rainbow shots out of our colourful van

The location of our maison is smack bang in the middle of what is known as the Cote D’or. Not the ice cream. Literally translated, the ‘Gold Coast’ is so called because the leaves of the vines turn gold in the autumn. The nearest village to us is Nuits Saint Georges. Yet another well reputed name in the world of wine.  Lou and I paid a visit and found Nuits Saint Georges to be a pleasant little place. The architecture is more austere than in the Alsace where we have just been.

Figuring we were about to get a pay-day we treated ourselves to some traditional Burgundian food at the Cafe de Paris in Nuits Saint Georges, which included Beef Bourginon and snails. I opted for a dish hitherto unknown to me; A sausage called Andouilette. Andouilette looks like pigs intestines and tastes like a pig sty. It was was an intensely dirty, earthy flavour. I personally enjoyed it but Lou was not so keen. Desert was cheese of course and included some classic local specialities such as the salty yellow goo of Epoisses and the creamy, minerally Brillat-Saverin.

That evening we shared a couple of our bottles of wine with Ursula and Juanca. I was excited to practice my Spanish on them. However, I found my vocabulary sorely lacking. Reading through my Spanish study book (made three years earlier in South america), it dawned on me on much I had forgotten. I was angry with myself for letting it slide. Thankfully Juanca speaks good English and Ursula tries. She wants to learn, so she speaks in English and I try to answer back in Spanish. This is a slow and painful process but aided by vino.

We still do not know what day we will start exactly, just Monday or Tuesday. We are scared to ask if there will be a day off, for fear of looking like slackers. But according to Juanca there is no day off. This sounds insane to us but we suppose at least it will be over with more quickly. Apparently on the last day everyone throws grapes and mud at each other and there is a big party with loads of free wine. That sounds good!

We learned from Ursula and Juanca that we will have porters. Juanca is a ‘Porteur’. Lou and I will technically be ‘Coupeurs’ – cutters. It sounds as if we cut the grapes, fill up a bucket and the porters take it to the end of the row. This was a relief for us because Lou and I were envisaging carrying heavy buckets of grapes down long rows of vines. The porters will do that for us. Thank God!

“By Monday this place will have a hundred people here. You will see. It will be crazy”.

Lou is still concerned about how she will cope with the physical nature of the job. Rightfully so. I hadn’t seen her this nervous about anything since our first hand-fasting ceremony back in May 2017. I notice many of Lou’s sentences start with something along the lines of, “I think I’ll be alright…” or “Yeah, I should be ok, but you know…” We talked and I told Lou it’s not a big deal if she can’t finish the work. It’s obviously more important she doesn’t end up in hospital. We agreed to see after the first couple of days of work, whether or not Lou would be able carry on.

In fairness, I was nearly as nervous.  Physical challenges rarely rank high up my ‘to do’ list. Although, maybe that’s changing. Aside from the WWOOFing I’ve never had a green finger in my life. But I guess, like doing a skydive, eventually you have to leave your nerves at the door and make that jump.

Day 3 – Sight-seeing and Socialising

Sunday. Definitely no work today. The grapevine (no pun intended), had informed us we would start either on Tuesday morning or Monday afternoon. Today was a day for sight-seeing. After all what’s the point of driving all the way to Burgundy if you’re not going to look around? We spent several hours bumping the van along cobbled streets of villages in the Cote De Nuits and the Cote de Beaune – The regions North and South respectively, of the town of Beaune. The names of these villages represent some of wine’s big hitters, in price if not body: Aloxe-Corton, Meursault, Pommard, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin and of course Vosnee-Romanee, home to Domaine Romanee-Conti – renowned for being the world’s most expensive wine.

Popping back to the maison for lunch, we were surprised few other people had arrived in our absence. Especially with work potentially looming on Monday. Kalina’s word’s were, “By Monday this place will have a hundred people here. You will see. It will be crazy.” We wondered where they were all going to sleep. Things were definitely not at the level of crazy yet. The atmosphere was chilled.

One new addition to the crew that might fall into the ‘crazy’ bracket however, was a French guy called Jerome. Bald-headed, short and stocky, in his 40s, his introduction to Lou, Ursula and I involved a lot of finger pointing and wagging. All three of us stood listening intently to his French ranting, whilst understanding very little. From what we gathered he was annoyed we had not already started work and wanted to know what day we would do so. He tried to make his point by fiercely jabbing the calendar hanging on the wall with his middle finger. Then he would shrug at us as if we should understand. We responded in English that we did not know. Jerome didn’t understand English or Spanish and the cycle of abrupt questioning would continue.  His loud voice and pointy finger were both extremely irritating. His second reason for ranting seemed to be that his bed only had one blanket on it. Now, given neither myself, Lou or Ursula had been given any kind of blanket or top-sheet, we weren’t that impressed with his tale of woe. In fact it was lucky we had the bedding from our campervan, as we definitely weren’t told to bring sleeping bags!

Having done our little tour of the local region it was time to go downstairs and start socialising. Our kitchen had a double door that led out on to a veranda overlooking a yard, that adjoined the main kitchen below us. The one where they would cook all the big meals. On Friday and Saturday many people seemed to be down there drinking all day and all night, making plenty of noise. Now we felt sufficiently at home to leave the shallow waters of our kitchen and join the rabble down below. Everyone was sat in a circle on plastic furniture, drinking beer and smoking something or other. Someone got out a skittle game I’d never seen before. Ursula told me it originated in Finland.

Becoming Vendangers: This miniature skittles game is fun!
Ursula and Juanca watch on as Paulo has a throw.

Finnish skittles, or at least the miniature version they played here, is awesome! To explain briefly, there are 12 wooden skittles each of which are numbered. Players take it in turns to bowl a similarly sized lump of wood at the skittles. Each skittle that gets knocked down scores a point. Or, if you only knock down one skittle you score whatever its number. Rather than placing the skittles back in their original position though, they are erected where they fall. This creates some interesting situations when there are lots of people around! As the game goes on it gets harder and harder. Basically it’s awesome and all pub gardens, in fact everybody, should own this game!

We spent alot of time talking to Loic and Kalina. They are lovely. Like most of the others here they are in their twenties. Quite a few others speak English. Most do not. Talking to everyone we realise we have things in common with them that we don’t with anyone we’ve met so far on our travels. Namely an appreciation for alternative subcultures and electronic music. A guy called Jeremie tells us we should come to a free party near his home in Limoges after the harvest has finished. Alas it’s on the wrong side of France. Although we were secretly relieved as we’re quite enjoying our break from the London scene.

Becoming Vendangers: We have a copy of this sticker in our van

A short dark skinned guy with dreads who’s responsible for the evening’s music, consisting of what you might loosely term, ‘gypsy festival beats’, has a tobacco tin with an interesting sticker on it. He (Gaitan), tells us it literally translates as Sex, Pastis, Rugby, Pancakes. I must have been quite drunk because I told him how much I love it. It is literally the most French thing Lou and I have ever seen. So he gave us one of the stickers. It now adheres proudly to the inside of our campervan.

Our first catered meal was not too shabby either. As there were only about twenty people we ate just outside the kitchen in the basement level rather than the mess hall. There was an atmosphere of bonhomie, to use the proper french expression. The main course consisted of duck with a Ylang Ylang infused sauce. Lou and I shared our wine around the table. We’ve already made a serious dent in those nine bottles over the last few days. We had a beer or two in return.

The one possibility we put to bed was that we might have to move out of our room. Apparently there was a misunderstanding with Fred and he was not literally referring to the room being for old people. He meant people who had been there before. Which is basically everyone. But seeing as they all seem settled now, no one wants to move.

What have we learned about becoming Vendangers so far?

  • Bring food, wine and beers. Lots!
  • Get there early to bag the best beds.
  • Don’t be nervous about not speaking French.
  • Ask everyone for advice.
  • Vendangers are a mixture of age groups.
  • You will not know exactly when the harvest will start.
  • Everyone else has done it before you.
  • If you are English you will probably be the only English.

We’re all having fun. But the work hasn’t even started yet!

Find out how we got on with the nuts and bolts of grape harvesting by reading the follow-up to this tale

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Thanks for reading ‘Becoming Vendangers (Part 1) – Get ready for good hard fun!’. We hope you enjoyed it. We would love to hear from you so please feel free to email us on antlou [at] vanutopia.com and don’t forget you can stay right up to date with all of our antics by following us on social media: FacebookInstagramTwitter and subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Ant & Lou

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Comments

  1. Gloria

    Excelent article! As they said in french: à poil !
    Waiting fot Part II
    With love and expecting see you both again <3

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  2. Keith Chesney

    Hey guys really enjoyed reading about your travels.Looking forward to the second installment of the grape picking.

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