Organising the harvest

Organising the harvest starts in the month of June. In June we send out by mail, not a mailing, a letter... writing to all of the good pickers who worked well the previous year. We send them a paper with a detachable coupon, which they return to us saying if they can participate, or not, in the harvest. But then things become a bit complicated. We must provide a range of dates for the harvest, This is difficult. Normally we count 100 days between flowering and harvest, but this year it was a bit off, as we picked at around 95 days. Once we have sent the letters and have all the replies back, this gives us our core group of pickers for the years' harvest. After that, we run a series of advertisements... in 'Bien Publique', our regional newspaper, we place the advert in 5 or 6 editions, regularly spaced, with a telephone number, and an email address and website dedicated to the harvest. For example, when this telephone rings, I know it is a picker... I always ask everyone who calls, for a photocopy of their ID card, their health insurance card, and their address and phone number. When the harvest date approaches, generally 24 to 48 hours beforehand, we take the list of phone numbers and call everyone. This year for example, we must have called a 100 people, 90 responded positively, but only 70 turned up. Some said they'd turn up, but the next day they weren't on the bus. But it's one of the hazards of harvesting, and like that every year. On an administrative level, the MSA has become increasingly involved, that's the social security organisation for agricultural workers, has demanded that everything must be declared at once. beforehand a simple fax with the names and social security numbers was enough, now we must have a full official declaration, which Catherine there, is very happy to do. Me, I wouldn't want to do it... I'd be inclined to do it all on a computer programme... dedicated to managing the harvest. And after that, goodness, it's off we go! During harvest every morning on the bus: the call, then we wait to see what happens... This year was exceptional. We have never gone so fast. The last day is the worst for us, because the pickers will finish... early afternoon, so by evening we have to prepare 80 pay-checks. This includes our team working in the winery. Remember, each "pay-check"... is made up of 9 different documents. These need to be signed... So the cheques need to be made out etc., etc...... The pickers themselves, the cutters and porters in the vineyard, this year we had a core team of 50, that's not counting the drivers, the cutters and porters were fifty. There were three drivers. Then there is our Domaines' team, who are here all year round. Those in the vines, meaning at least five or six. This year there were many who wanted to come. But the precociousness of the harvest meant they couldn't make it. There are many who pick but not only here at the domaine. Meaning they start in the Beaujolais, and then come further north, bit by bit. There was a sort of telescoping between the regions and harvest dates. So many people had not been able to come because of that. Some had already booked holidays starting on the 10th, As that was the starting date for our harvest and not the third, Many people were not able to come because of that. But generally people want to come back, there's a core group of around 30 who come back every year. It's minimum wage for a cutter, minimum wage plus 10 centimes I think for a porter. We don't do give meal allowances as we provide lunch at midday. We provide lunch so there's no added allowance to prepare. We're lucky, for me anyway, in that there are no lodgings. That'd make things much more complicated. For catering, we do that at the domaine... where meals are prepared, So we do it all in-house. We have kitchen staff who do just that. And they manage meals. They also do evening meals, there is lunch for the pickers, but also the evening meal for the whole team. Because some people work without a break until the end of the day. It goes on like that until the end of vinification, it goes on for a month, or a month and a half in all. But the teams are smaller during vinification, when we have only fifteen to feed it's OK. But during picking until the wine is put in cuve, the sorters and ourselves, we are more than 100 eating at lunchtime. So once we have recruited the personnel and seen how and what they eat, for us the work becomes much simpler. However, then comes the job of "counting" the cases of grapes, and making an estimation of the yield. It's not always exact, but anyway... what was actually harvested. Therefore... Cases of grapes are sent regularly from the vineyard by truck. These cases are weighed, more precisely half are weighed. So when a truck arrives with 24 cases, we weigh 12. It's noted on a form. which has the time and all the necessaries. Presented in this form, for example, this comes from Goillotte, you have the time, the number of cases... and the weight of half the cases, which gives an average per case. multiply this by the number of cases and we have weight loaded every hour. With the weight at every hour we make a page like this, with the time, weight, number of cases, and the estimate here. subtract the tare of the cases themselves of course, each case weighs 3.5 kg, which is no small part of the total. So finally we know for Goillotte, this year, we have 146 cases... for a net weight of 2200kg. After that, we apply a ratio of weight to juice, which provides us with an estimate. This in turn allows Yannick to order the correct amount of barrels, it's really an estimate to let us know if we need more than 70 or 100 barrels. Laurent really enjoys knowing every day, how much his team has harvested. It's a great satisfaction. That will be a grape-picker, I'm going to tell him we've finished. Hello? Yes, hello, I'm sorry, we'll be just about finished tomorrow. That's it. You're welcome, goodbye!'