Reflections on a harvest done


“Most know that viticulture is a horribly stressful occupation that I posit is up there with being an air traffic controller” I stated in a recent article for Master of Wine and recipient of the Order of the British Empire, Jancis Robinson about the Priorat harvest. I wrote the article after I tossed back a couple of aspirin, put on a hat and went out to the vineyards to pick grapes for a month in the region as well as work in the cellar of Vall Llach, an opportunity I had purely by being friends with co-owner, Albert Costa.

The dust has settled, the days are shorter, and the wines are nearly all pressed which means that this harvest is over. Amazingly, I wasn’t tired after the first week where I’d be able to barely stumble up the hill at the end of the day to crash or even be lured in by a cold beer and second hand smoke at the café. You get accustomed to the work and your back, which initially feels as if it’s going to snap either gets stronger or fully numbs the pain as a defensive mechanism therein letting you finish picking the grapes.

You learn the danger of beautiful vineyards such as Mas de la Rosa which is incredibly steep and where everyone working it falls, at least once. My main trophy was slipping on a relatively flat part and landing on a sharp piece of rock that gave me a sordid bruise the size of my hand and, three weeks later has only started to clear up.

You also learn that just as soon as you think you really don’t want to get up and drag your ass around the vineyard and carry 20kg boxes of grapes back to the tractor or you really don’t want to shovel out another tank to press, it’s over. The leaves of the vines turn a shockingly vibrant red that screams against the dark slate of the soil. Then they turn a sickly yellow to then fall off and vanish until the next year.

Much like the sun, leaves, and work, the people all seem to vanish now in mid-November as well. Everyone tucks in to their homes, lights fires, rearrange their furniture, and await the Spring when it starts all over again.