|My fellow volunteers snipping the vines.|
In the meantime, I'm gathering information about winemaking and having tons of fun along the way. This weekend I had the chance to help out Swiss vine owner and winemaker, Alain Chollet.
His winery and vineyard is located in Grandvaux area about 10 minutes away from Lausanne by train. With the harvest season complete in October, he needed a few volunteers to help him trim the branches off the vines and get them ready for winter.
There were four of us volunteering in total (the other 3 came from Geneva) and the work was hard, but rewarding. Basically all we had to do is snip off all the branches on each vine stock except for the main one. It sounds easy, but after 8 hours of snipping, I had blisters on my thumb and fingers, and my back was a little sore from the bending up and down. But, I would do it again in a second and have already asked to on the volunteer list next time around.
Alain was the best boss and the best teacher of what to do with the vines. When I started, I was worried I was going to snip the wrong bits off and kill his plants, but he showed me exactly what to do and gave us hints on which way to work the vines to reduce the amount of work on our backs.
Here's a hint: The vines are planted on steep hills so working your way up hill is definitely easier.
During the lunch break, he gave us a tour of his cellar where we tasted three of the wines that were currently being fermented. It was my first time trying something that was still in between the juice and wine stage, but you could already get a sense of how the wine would progress when mature.
He told us the vineyard had been with his family for generations and he said that in Switzerland, they are very strict with what you can grow. Chasselas is the most common grape of the area and a certain percentage of your vineyard has to be that (if the vines are already there). Alain's vineyard also had a little bit of Chardonnay (which his grandfather planted) and some red varieties like Pinot Noir. He was experimenting with a red blend that was pretty good.
We worked from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm when the sun was starting to set. It was a hard day, but a nice way to get to know the wine and the wine maker. We also got paid in wine, which was fantastic.
Alain does have volunteer weekends three times a year: Spring, harvest and winter prep. He also holds special wine events in the cellar throughout the year so those of you who would rather drink the wine rather than work for it.
You can find out more information about these and how to volunteer on his website: http://www.alainchollet.ch/new/