Working the Harvest in Bordeaux, was the absolute top experience we were hoping to have as we embarked on our travels around the world. It’s often a highly competitive position to secure, especially without advanced fluency in French. Though, given all the odds against us, we were lucky enough to come into contact with Julien of Chateau Brandeau via HelpX.net, and he welcomed us with open arms to come for the Harvest.
Chateau Brandeau is located on the east side of the Dordogne Gironde River, in Castillon la Bataille (which literally translates to “the battle of Castillon,” which took place at the end of the 100-Year War). It is a completely organic [bio] vineyard- a rarity, but slowly growing trend in Bordeaux, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc being the main grape varietals grown.
We arrived the day before the harvest began, meeting Julien just as he was finishing all the sterilization and preparation for the weeks ahead. A large group of volunteers had already arrived and we were all warmly initiated with an amazingly coursed homemade meal, and endless pitchers of his wine.
The days following were undoubtably laborious but soulfully satisfying, and the friends we made along the way will be lifelong. We would wake with the sun, eat a hearty breakfast and head out to the vineyards to clip and collect grapes. Row by row, lot by lot, we’d slowly make progress, with breaks each day at 10am for a wine and soup break- the soup always incredible and always homemade. We would then head back around noon each day, at which point we would de-stem the grapes before enjoying a perfectly filling lunch, again with copious amounts of wine. Afterwards, we would head back to the vineyards to clip grapes for the rest of the afternoon, breaking for good around 5pm each day. We’d again gather to de-stem the grapes before washing up for dinner.
Each night we enjoyed an exceedingly impressive dinner as the wine flowed, and once the dishes were done, we would all gather around a bonfire made up of old vines, and pass the night away over music, stories, and of course, more wine.
Along the way, we took advantage of learning as much as we could, hands-on, from Julien, about the entire wine-making process. It was an unforgettable experience which we plan to repeat again. If you’re interested in joining the Harvest with Julien at Chateau Brandeau, check out his HelpX listing here!