The Grape Harvest : Vendange

The Grape Harvest by Léon- Augustin L'hermitte, 1884.
The Grape Harvest by Léon- Augustin L’hermitte, 1884.

Their faces are blushed and tanned, their long skirts lifted, and brown arms bare. Their sweet laughter drifts on the early autumn breeze as they deftly move between, and along the vine row, using their pruning knives to cut away clusters of warm red grape, then handling them gently into willow or wooden baskets. The men tease, and take the ‘cutters’ baskets to fill their own larger ones swung over their backs, then to the barrel on the cart, which when full is pulled by the donkey to the chateaux winepress. The workers toil all morning, row by row, basket by basket, until they hear the midday ‘Angelus’ bells ring from the village church that tell them it is time to rest. They make their way to the cabane de vigne, a small stone cabin at the edge of the field. There they eat, talk and sleep, until it is time to resume their work.

Relics in the vineyard


Under a stone shelter an old farm cart rests. It was just the right size to carry a barrel of grapes, and hay too.

Across the road, a metal crane rusts from time and misuse. It once was useful, during the early years of industrialised viticulture, to load wooden crates of grape onto a trailer, to be pulled by a tractor.


Cabane de vigne

In every the vineyard, a little house remembers,
The vineyard workers, sheltering from the sun and rain,
Eating saucisson and bread, washed down with a swig of red wine.


NB   If interested, you can find a little more to read about the history of wine              agriculture here, and winemaking there..

Purple harvest : september

Purple fruits are adorning the hedgerow, orchard and vineyard, just now..

Wild blackberries

Purple stained fingertips and tongues,
bramble scratches on your arms,
hands up,
games up,
blackberry picking, you’ve been and done!

Prunier d’ente (grafted prune)

A few old folk still remember, when in their youth, they worked in the orchards to gather the ripe prunier d’ente from the trees in august and september, after the wheat harvest. They recall the hardwork of picking, washing, and stoning the fruit by hand, which was then carried by cart to the pruniculturist to be dried in a prune oven. A wood stove used to burn day and night, during the drying period. The fruit was placed on trays made of dogwood, that does not burn, then into the oven, where it took many hours to dry. The dried prunes were stored until the prune seller came to take them away to Agen, or La Reole, where they were loaded onto boats, and taken to Bordeaux for export across the world.*


Through september, when ripeness, and weather dictates, the vendange (harvest) of wine grape commences.

Wine grape has been grown in L’Entre Deux Mers, since the Romans occupied the south west of Gaul, in the kingdom called Aquitaine, at the turn of the first millenium. They planted vine cuttings, possibly from Spain, to supply their soldiers with wine, and encouraged laic lords, and monasteries to plant on their lands, teaching them the art of winemaking.

From the Middle Ages, winegrape was grown extensively, and produced mainly for export, with links favoured between Bordeaux and England. The Plantagenet Kings Of England possessed Gascony and Aquitaine for three centuries, and granted Bordeaux tax exemptions.

Today, in L’Entre Deux Mers, there are two and a half thousand hectares of land devoted to the making of good white, and generic red Bordeaux wine, which is exported across the world.

 Looking out on the Vendange of the Middle Ages, as seen through the stained glass window of Rimons Prebytery.
Looking out on the Vendange of the Middle Ages, as seen through the stained glass window of Rimons Presbytery.

* If you would like to know more about les Pruneaux d’Agen, an older post is here.