I have been volunteering during the English Wine harvest since 2015, and this week saw my first Hencote harvest. The mandatory selfie was taken as we started early to bring in the Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc grapes – the last to be picked this year.
It was a very changeable November day. Volunteers and staff members were treated to a diverse range of weather. From bright, warm sunshine to torrential downpours. And all within a few minutes sometimes! Sadly no rainbow shone over us as we worked, but our spirits remained high.
We enjoyed a jam-filled croissant fresh from the oven with coffee at break time. A mozzarella and tomato risotto after work had been finished for the day, along with a delicious glass of Hencote’s Vivienne. This blend of Solaris and Chardonnay (reflecting some of the grapes we had been picking) had layers of fresh fruit and a strong, but not too piercing acidity that cut through the richness of the risotto well. I heard comments from more seasoned volunteers that this was actually one of the less preferred luncheons they had received during the harvest – which means on some days they must have been eating very well indeed. The risotto was faultlessly cooked.
I really enjoy grape harvesting. I’m sure that’s because I can dip in and out when I feel like it, it’s not my job. But just you and a pair of grape scissors, snipping off bunches – it can be pretty meditative. It’s nice to get a bit of fresh air, stretch your legs, and have a bit of idle chit chat with your fellow pickers.
As someone who writes about wine a lot, getting hands on with the harvest is important for me. Being a part of the process helps you to understand it all much more than reading about it in books. Plus the opportunity to hear winemaker Gavin speak so eloquently about his practice and the industry at lunch was a chance not to pass up. But I think that it’s something that anyone could enjoy, whether or not you like wine.
See you at Harvest 2023?
Sadly the harvest is over now – and it was a late finish at that. But I’m sure if you got in touch with Hencote you could be added to their volunteer mailing list. And if you are nearer my old stomping grounds of Leicestershire, then seek out Rothley Wine. They can offer an equally lovely experience of picking.