The grape picking season gets underway at the end of August in a number of French wine-growing regions. During this period, wine growers call on the services of seasonal workers. If you are interested in vineyards, but don’t want to do the picking, an alternative is an oenological break. Here is a guide on how to get involved in grape picking or to visit the vineyards.
The grape pickers’ profile
Don’t be fooled: grape picking is hard work. Tourism and grape picking do not necessarily mix well. The majority of grape pickers are job seekers or young people seeking work for a little extra pocket money. They must be in good physical condition because, the fun aspect aside, grape picking is laborious work, often in a bending position and requiring patience and dexterity. Nonetheless, men and women at least 16 years old are welcome to join in. In general, there are three kinds of jobs: cutters, carriers and bucket emptiers.
A few grape-picking holidays
For those of you who want to discover the grape harvests without working in the vineyards all season long, several discovery breaks are possible, notably:
- Cave de Gigondas (French only) (Provence) welcomes visitors in September. For a day, visitors can familiarize themselves with grape harvesting and wine-making, enjoy a local meal in the cellar and take part in tasting sessions with explanations from a wine grower, oenologist and cellar master. They also take you on a walk and tell you about the Gigondas appellation. Prices depend on the number of visitors and the activities chosen: from €45 to €68 for the day.
For information and bookings: +33 (0)4 90 65 86 27
- Come and visit the vineyards of the Musée de la Vigne et du Vin d'Anjou (Anjou Vine and Wine Museum) (Pays de la Loire) in Clos Linkebeek to take part in manual grape picking. You will be able to press your grapes in the ancient style and then enjoy the aromas of your grape juice. After a musical cocktail, a grand dinner will take place in exceptional surroundings. Jean-Michel MONNIER, a well known oenologist, will share his knowledge of wine with you.
Price: €43 per person / Booking compulsory – Limited number of places.
Information and booking at the Musée de la Vigne et du Vin d'Anjou (Anjou Vine and Wine Museum) on +33 (0)2 41 78 42 75 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mystère des Vendanges (The Mystery of the Grape Harvests) break at Château de Berne (Provence) – 2 nights in a Deluxe room (breakfast and 1 dinner (Saveur menu) with tasting of the Château’s wines) and ½ day to “Discover the Grape Harvests” including lunch (drinks included).
A fun and instructive way to learn and discuss with the domain’s wine growers who love talking about their know-how and passion. The break involves picking grapes and taking them to the Cellar, a technical visit of the cellars and a tasting with commentary to make your taste buds tingle! Lastly, lunch at the Bouscarelle, in the shade of the olive trees, is a reward for all!
Starting at €520 per person in a double room (valid from mid-September to mid-October, subject to the season’s start).
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Take time to explore the many intriguing neighborhoods of Amsterdam, which are constantly evolving. The Jordaan district, for example, was once an area for the working-class poor. Today, this area in Amsterdam's historic center is artsy-cool.
Three streets in particular -- Bloemgracht, Bloemstraat and Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat -- have great galleries to discover. Before heading out, pick up a free copy ofAmsterdam Gallery Preview, with gallery listings and a large, helpful map.
Dutch curator, collector, and gallery-owner Eduard Planting recommends these galleries:
Galleries Galore On Bloemgracht
Galerie Bart(Bloemgracht 2, Amsterdam; tel.20/320-6208;www.galeriebart.nl)
Considered to be one of the most cutting-edge exhibition venues in Amsterdam, the Bart gallery specializes in emerging Dutch artists with a focus on painting and photography. It also exhibits spectacular sculpture, made from new materials.
Galerie GistAmsterdam (Bloemgracht 82, Amsterdam; tel.20/622-6662;www.gistgalerie.nl)
This Amsterdam gallery alternates exhibits of upcoming and more established artists from the Netherlands and abroad. Gist mounts both solo and group shows in the main gallery and in the project space.
Galerie Tegenboschvanvreden(Bloemgracht 57, Amsterdam; tel.20/320-6768;www.tegenboschvanvreden.com)
Galerie Fons Welters(Bloemstraat 140, Amsterdam, tel.20/423-3046;www.fonswelters.nl)
The focus here is on contemporary art. The gallery works with artists from the beginning of their professional development and has launched the career of many young Dutch artists such as Joep van Lieshout, Aernout Mik, Erik van Lieshout, Jan De Cock, Sven Kroner, and Matthew Monahan.
Galleries On Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat
Galerie Eduard Planting(Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat 2 links, Amsterdam; tel.20/320-6705;www.eduardplanting.com)
This gallery exhibits an interesting mix of fine art photography by well-known, international artists as well as work by emerging talent. Gallery-owner Eduard Planting also advises collectors on photo print selection.
Dolf D. van Omme(Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat 19, Amsterdam; tel.20/427-4642;www.dolfvanomme.nl)
The spotlight here is on 19th- and 20th-century European fine art. The collection includes work from the Amsterdam Impressionists, classical modernists, French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Also featured are traditional paintings of Amsterdam city views.
Other Things To See & Do in the Jordaan District
After wandering around the district, stop for refreshments at one of these neighborhood cafés:Bar Brandstof(Marnixstraat 341; tel.06/543-435-55),Struik(Rozengracht 160; tel.20/625-4863), andVilla Zeezicht(Torensteeg 7; tel.20/626-7433).
And, maybe even do some shopping:Sprmrkt(Rozengracht 191-193;www.sprmrkt.nl) -- a converted supermarket offering designer clothing, accessories and furniture;Lock Stock and Barrel(Hartenstraat 26;www.lockstockandbarrel.hyves.nl) -- international fashions and accessories for men & women; andAntonia by Yvette(Gasthuismolensteeg 18;www.antoniabyyvette.nl) -- a designer shoe boutique.