A day of grape picking in 1960 at Le Ménard

Grape picking generally took place later than nowadays: late September and early October. The winegrowers formed teams of grape pickers according to the calendar of harvest dates established for each winegrower. Neighbours helped one another (Days between neighbors were exchanged) and a few day labourers were also called in: they were farmhands and workers who came back to the village for the occasion.

  • 6:30 am: meeting at the owner’s house, coffee and eau de vie and preparation of the equipment: horse, skips, barrot, baskets, wicker or galvanized sheet metal hood.
  • 7:30 am: bacon and cabbage soup with some cheese and a glass of wine.

At the vine, each grape picker had its own batten (row of vine) and was equipped with a basket, and sometimes a knife for the refractory bunches. Everybody was in a good mood in spite of the cool dew that wet the legs, hence the use of an apron to protect themselves.

Depending on the number of grape pickers, there were one or more baskets carriers. The skips / / were at the end of the rows and a wooden tool in the shape of a sledgehammer (the braillou) was used to compact the bunches of grapes.

When the skips were full, they were loaded on top of the horse-drawn cart. A bunch of grapes was crushed on the irons of the cart for the “sliding of the skips.” Two men used to wait in the barn to unload the skips into the tank.

  • 10:30 am: Coffee and apple pie
  • 1:00 pm: Harvest meal. When the boss put his knife away, all the grape pickers got up and those who were not used to it didn’t even have time to drink their coffee!

In the afternoon, a few glasses of wine and glasses of syrup were served in the vineyard. The boys sometimes covered the girls with a bunch of Gamay grapes in black juice called “dyer!“
At nightfall, some grape pickers returned to their farms to take care of their animals; the others had dinner and the day ended in songs.
Sometimes some winegrowers would extract the vat (i. e. extract the first juice from the grape called sweet wine) and fill a tank (a 100-litre barrel) to make grey wine (sweet wine slightly aged and more alcoholic), and then pinot (sweet wine to which“hooch“ . is added)
The harvest could last from 2 to 3 days, and the painful backs of the first day were quickly forgotten.

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