Grape picking season: a look back at the initiatives that attracted tourists 

An immersive experience in the vineyards of Portugal or a seasonal job in a winery in Switzerland? Many of us are looking for original experiences for our vacations, as shown by the success of tourist grape picking in recent years.

The importance of grape picking in winemaking

Grape picking is an essential part of the whole winemaking process, whether the wine in question be South American, Australian or French. The grapes used for making white, red or rosé wine are picked using expertise cultivated over several generations. When the grapes are actually harvested depends on whereabouts in the world the vineyards are located:

  • in Australia, the grapes are harvested between February to April,
  • while in Portugal, harvesting gets underway at the end of August and continues until October

What does grape picking involve?

Each year, wine professionals focus on an essential stage of what they do: grape picking. This involves harvesting the grapes – the fruit used in winemaking. This harvesting, which winegrowers, wine producers and wine lovers enjoy immensely, requires highly specific expertise – so delicate is the operation.

A certain number of factors – which are identical throughout the world – must be measured and verified before the harvest begins: how ripe the grapes are, the current and forecasted weather conditions and the state of the vines following the treatments implemented by the winemakers. Grapes can be harvested for wine production in two ways:

  • manual harvesting
  • mechanical picking

Increasing numbers of large wineries are opting for hand-picking so as to preserve the quality of the grapes. This process allows the fruit to be sorted as it is harvested, eliminating overripe or spoiled grapes. Mechanical harvesting is performed using specialized machines: high-clearance tractors.  These tractors are high enough to span one or two rows of vines at a time. After the machine harvest, the bunches of grapes are laid out flat on large tables to be sorted. The winegrower goes to great efforts to carry out these harvests under the best possible conditions, since their result determines the quantity of wine produced.

Grape picking – something original and exotic to do during your vacation

Inspired by this age-old winemaking tradition, enthusiastic winegrowers have come up with a unique formula: tourist grape picking. This experience is open to all wine lovers and nature lovers, as well as people who are just eager to try something new.

Combining work with pleasure in the vineyards of Tasmania

The idea of vacation grape picking arouses a great deal of interest in tourists from all countries. This is why numerous wine professionals in the US, Australia and South Africa are working with tourism experts on offering their clients unforgettable stays at their wineries.

By giving people on vacation the opportunity to help with the grape harvest on their estates, winegrowers are able to present their work and what they produce, and share their expertise while pruning the vines or during the bottling process. This type of package is particularly appealing to tourists looking for meaning and wanting to get closer to nature.

Grape picking: an ideal seasonal professional activity

This activity, which is seasonal by definition, is particularly popular among students spending time in a different country. Over the course of a few months, picking and sorting grapes in a Californian winery is sure to provide them with an exceptional personal and professional experience.

Grape harvests around the world are known as opportunities for seasonal workers to work closely together and get to know one another. Helping to pick grapes in Australia or Chile as a student or young worker is a unique opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

The wine industry innovates in wine tourism: pioneering estates

From Argentina to California, via France, a number of winegrowers have been offering off-the-beaten-track tourist trips for several years now. During the grape picking season, wineries welcome volunteer workers driven by their passion for wine. By undertaking these wine-related tasks, tourists get to try out a different wine profession every day, such as wine grower, oenologist or cooper.

Many winemakers and oenologists offer unique experiences to anyone wishing to learn more about their professions, help bottle French wines or find out which dish goes best with a white wine, for example. Keen to pass on their expertise, wineries strive to offer tourists opportunities to pick grapes where protecting the planet’s biodiversity is a priority.

An aspect of the cultural heritage of wine countries

In the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina, wineries welcome tourists and seasonal workers from all over the world from March onwards. These wine tourism stays feature work in the vineyard, wine and spirit tastings and visits to the estate.

At Château Réaut in the Bordeaux region, organizing wine harvests has been a habit for several years. Every year, 600 friends of the winery, all passionate about wine, help to pick and sort the grapes. The world wine tourism exhibition is dedicated to enhancing the grape picking experience for all wine lovers – whether they be vacationing in Tasmania, studying in Argentina or earning money as seasonal workers in the Rhône Valley.

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