The Buten

Impressionist painting taken with iPhone

Impressionist painting taken with iPhone

I spent most of today picking grapes in a nearby village. It hasn’t rained here in two months really, but it rained like hell while we were on the steep slopes with our buckets and clippers. Our friend Uwe has a friend Tom who grows grapes as a hobby, and produces about 2,000 liters of wine a year. Today, we picked Riesling grapes with Tom, his 75 year-old mom, his sister and her 7 and 4 year-old, and two of Tom’s colleagues.

We met Tom at his house at 10 a.m. and had some of his wine in the rain, with his 12 year-old German shepherd. We worked about two hours clipping clusters of grapes and tossing them in buckets, then dumped the buckets into a larger bucket called a Buten, which had shoulder straps on it. I carried the Buten down to the trailer, and with a twist of my back, tossed the grapes into a large fiberglass container. I managed to get up and down the steep, Roman steps without falling, despite the slippery leaves and snails.

After harvesting Tom’s six or seven rows of vines, we had lunch. They put up a tarp to keep us out of the rain, and we squeezed in together on a picnic table while Tom grilled pork chops and sausages. There was ample wine, beer and Schnapps and Tom kept my plate and glass full at all times.

After grape-picking

After grape-picking

Uwe transporting grapes with shovel

Uwe transporting grapes with shovel

I was surprised at the lack of delicacy in the whole process. At the start, I was worried that some of the grapes I was picking had rotten or moldy fruit, but then I was told it didn’t matter. Everything got put into small buckets, transferred to larger containers, then shoveled out of the trailer and back into smaller buckets, for a grinder. The grinder agitated the fruit, to get the sugars and alcohol working. We tested the sugar level and found it was really good (85%), although the overall volume of grapes was really low compared to other years. He will get about 130 liters out of what we picked today.

Tom gave us bottles of pear Schnapps as a thank you, and I bought a bottle of his Trollinger and Karic. He wouldn’t take my money, so I left it on his bar.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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