I had the great fortune to witness vintage time in some of the German wine regions. During my first walk through vineyards at the Rhine (Middle Rhine) near Bad Honnef, I talked to some grape pickers. My first innocent (and maybe ignorant) question “what grapes they were harvesting”, was answered in heavy accented German: “I have to ask the boss”. Most of these picking crews seemed to come from the Middle East, Turkey and Poland.
Picking crew at the foot of ‘Drachenfels’
Empty fruit bins on trailers in the Ahr valley
In the Ahr valley I mostly ran into family-member picking-crews. On the steep slopes, it is realy hard physical work to get the grapes. Buckets are carried up or downhill and emptied into bins. Tripping and losing one’s balance can result in severe falls. Most of the family-managed vineyards are small but also cheap foreign labour is employed to cope with the harvest during vintage time.
The slopes are very steep. Family members were doing the picking work
Tractors transport the fruit to the wineries
Pinot Noir fruit at the Ahr
Harvesters cannot be used on the slopes. Near Trier I found caterpillar tractors were used to transport the fruit out of the vineyards. A precondition is that the rows are spaced accordingly. Sometimes two rows of vines are planted close together and a middle row between such double rows is wider so that the caterpillars can drive through. In any case picking grapes is hard work that deserves our respect and appreciation. We wine drinkers know it and are thankful that people are still willing to collect the grapes from such steep vineyards.
Picking crew in Olewig vineyards, a location along the Mosel near Trier
Caterpillar tractors for the steep slopes
Mosel Riesling fruit
‘Zum Wohl’ (freely translated as ‘to your health’) as the Germans toast when drinking wine.