If you’ve never seen a violinist tread grapes, you’ve missed out!
Well, after committing to at least day’s grape picking in the 2013 harvest, today was the day! I’ve been keeping an eye on quite a number of vineyards looking for volunteers and the combination of informative updates on their website and the promise of a hog roast and treading grapes was enough to tempt me to Pebblebed just outside Exeter for the Rondo harvest.
I’ve previously enjoyed their wine and spent a pleasant evening at their lovely tasting cellar in Topsham, so I thought it would be fun to see where it all came from.
I arrived just before the appointed hour of 10am and a kind couple, Veronica and Ian, who have picked many times before, showed me the ropes. Most of us had brought our own secateurs and crates were laid out up the rows of vines. We started at one end of a row and progress up the row was initially slow as there were simply so many grapes to pick, but as the crates started to fill, it was very satisfying.
As more people turned up, they joined in; it really wasn’t as hard work as I’d feared and while everyone kept on picking, there was room for some jollity, sometimes chatting with your neighbour across the row and a few children, some helping, but all at least learning where grapes and wine come from. We even had a violinist walking up and down the rows to entertain us, who could ask for more?
In two and a half hours, we had picked an astounding 5 tonnes of Rondo grapes and all their previously groaning vines were bare. We headed over to the courtyard in front of the farmhouse for a very welcome glass of wine and a pork bap from a hog that had been roasting while we worked. I’d half wondered why there was a nice enamel bath in a wooden frame outside the winery building… All became clear as Geoff Bowen, vineyard owner, filled the bath with grapes and a couple of buckets with clean water for feet (one in, one out). First in was Lilly Neal who had been entertaining us playing her violin in the vineyard earlier, and of course we couldn’t resist calling for her to play in the bath.
Great fun was had by everyone who volunteered (and yes, I did!) It was amazing how many people said what a long held ambition it had been to tread grapes. Finally Geoff and a friend got in there and did a kind of Cossack dance. As Geoff himself said “You have to be a little bit mad to grow grapes in this country, so you might as well bring everyone else along with you.”
The grapes we picked are destined to be mixed with Pinot Noir to make a red, as well as being used in Pebblebed’s renowned still and sparkling rosé wines.
All in all a great day. I’m definitely up for more picking, just need to see how the muscles feel in the morning… There are plenty of vineyards who rely on volunteers, so do check our list of vineyards looking for help or contact your local vineyard.
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