For many years, I looked forward eagerly to the wine harvest period, and one of my favorite outings. On the third Sunday of September, I would bring my guests of the moment to JP's friends’ harvest.
Arles to Vauvert was but a short distance. We skirted the town, took tiny roads up to the plateau, down a seemingly abandoned road lined with vineyards, till we reached his dirt road and the small sign confirming our arrival at the Mas. Clients and children in tow, clippers and buckets in hand, we would all join in to carefully hand-harvest grapes.
Laughing, sticky hands all, brushing away wayward strands of hair falling in our eyes, each person adapted himself to the short vines so typical of this region, and sought out the awkwardly placed grape bunches. The little tractor trailed its large bin, awaiting the buckets of grapes. Wasps buzzed in the air attracted by the sweet juices.
JP would pass by each of us, a large grape carrier on his back, smiling his encouragement. The goal was to reach the end of the row, and then to go back and help the others finish up. Keep an eye open for who needs help so all advance together, then shift over to the rows that have yet to be done. Teamwork in the most basic sense. For we harvesters for a day, it was also fun and -- can I say -- romantic. But be not persuaded, joyful as this day is for visitors, picking grapes is hard physical labor, most often done in hot, uncomfortable, backbending conditions, with frequent possibilities for wasp stings.
The friends’ harvest days ended with lunch and nibblies aplenty. A hose was readily available to rince hands, clippers and buckets. A bit of music was put on in the background, and our host offered up a toast to the day’s volunteers. We then all settled down to the rows of tables laden with our pot luck feast, liberally washed down by last year's wine.