If working a wine grape harvest is on your bucket list, 2018 may be the year you realize the dream if you are eligible for employment in France. Due in part to an exceptionally hot summer in regions such as Jura and Alsace, the harvest date has crept up, leaving many growers in search of seasonal workers. As in other parts of the world, an agricultural labor shortage has become more common in recent years. In 2018, the early harvest in some parts of France has presented additional scheduling issues. Experienced pickers expect the work to begin a bit later in the year, and many of them are tied up with other jobs or are on leave.
Vineyard owners also say there seem to be fewer applicants as seasonal jobs appear less lucrative than in the past when some producers even held a waiting list for volunteers eager for the experience. Now some growers are prepared to provide bonuses, wine and small gifts to entice workers to choose their vineyards. Elise Bathelier is the human resources manager for Domaine Faiveley in Burgundy.
Employers realize the need to broadcast job openings via social media in addition to job fairs and personal networking. In late July, Alsace producer Domaine Allimant-Laugner posted on Facebook, “Harvest is approaching! Festivities launch on 8/24 or 8/27 with eight days of crémant harvest. Who wants to join our team?” Responses were met with personal messages regarding next steps. Soélis Défi, a provider of rural job matching services, has published an easy-to-use application form on Facebook.
The 2018 harvest in France is expected to produce a significant improvement on the yields of record-breakingly low 2017. According to July 2018 reports from the French Ministry of Agriculture, estimates are up double digits over last year. This is good news for the growers, but all those grapes must be picked at the perfect time.
Harvest is a flurry of urgent activity, with bands of laborers streaming down the rows with clippers. Harvested grapes are placed into bins that are carried or held on one’s back — when the bins are full they go into larger containers to be taken into the winery. This continues for days to weeks, depending on the size of the vineyard and the pattern of grapes being harvested.
Because grapes are harvested when they are perfectly ripe, certain portions of a single vineyard could be picked in their own time. Having a mobile team of workers on hand makes this process much easier. As vineyards blush closer to that magic moment, growers hope that plenty of eligible people answer the call.