Harvest time is here!
After a year which has brought all sorts of weather from vicious frosts to long sunny days, grapes in England and Wales are now coming in from the vineyards to the winery. The actual date depends on both grape variety and local climate; harvest is likely to go on throughout October.
What you may not realise is that many vineyards welcome help with the harvest. No-one’s going to argue that it’s easy, but if you like fresh air, good company and a feeling of huge satisfaction, then it’s a great way to spend a day. Check the “Help with Harvest” filter in our Directory and then hop over to the map to find a location that suits you. They are well spread out over the whole country, so you’re bound to find one not too far away.
Volunteer days are intended to be enjoyable, but it is a serious part of the business, too. It’s important to turn up on time as the day will start with a safety briefing. You should also be aware that picking doesn’t finish until all the grapes of the requisite variety have been picked; in most case this can be accurately forecast by an experienced vineyard manager who will have organised an appropriate number of pickers, but things can go awry and if you end up picking with a head torch or in the light of tractor headlights, you won’t be the first!
Typically the day will start early, but you’ll get breaks for coffee and cake and usually a good lunch, too. Later on, there’s really nothing to compare with drinking a bottle of wine made from grapes you’ve picked yourself.
Here’s our pick of just a few of them.
New vineyard Chet and Waveney Valley in Norfolk offer a family day out, with all ages welcome and the chance to catch up on gossip as you pick. With refreshments throughout, a bottle to take home and a promise of no heavy lifting, it sounds like an excellent place to join in.
Harvest days at Albury Organic in Surrey are open to members (£75, runs from May to April, will be on sale in the run up to Christmas). Organised with ruthless efficiency by vineyard manager Alex Valsecchi, but no less fun for that. There’s usually a barbecue lunch on the day and a harvest party at the end of the year.
Chafor Wine Estate in Buckinghamshire welcome volunteers. Last time I picked there it poured with rain, which reminds me to remind you that harvest will normally go ahead whatever the weather and to wear suitable layers accordingly.
This year I picked for the first time with Oatley Vineyard, who, like an number of vineyards, bring in friends and family for the occasion. We were lucky with the weather and their years of experience meant that everything ran smoothly. The meal afterwards was superb, too!
If you are interested in joining harvest, we suggest signing up to the relevant vineyard’s email list and following them on social media for the latest information. We would love to hear how you get on!
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