From our B&B in a little village near St. Emilion, we visited Chateau de Sales in Pomerol for a guided tour. The rather pretty chateau is still in use as a home by the family. The owner's family has owned the property since the 14C but they only got serious as winemakers in the 17C, The owners have many kids and grandkids and 44 great grandchildren and they visit the chateau a lot.
Everything was humming, as they were about half way through the three-week harvest. The vines were heavy with grapes; we saw these grapes on the way into the chateau and they were picked by the time we came back out.
The pickers (60 of them for this small property) carry these containers on their shoulders
and they are really heavy. After the workers fill the container by cutting the stems with a special knife and throwing bunches of grapes into the container, they walk to the end of the row where the tractor is waiting, climb the ladder, and dump their grapes into a sort of grape trailer.
The tractors bring the grapes back and the grapes move up a conveyor belt and then down another one into the destemming machine
where (you probably guessed this), the stems are removed
Then the juice gets extracted
and the juice starts fermenting in concrete containers. As the fermentation takes place, the wine is shifted back and forth between the concrete containers and oak barrels. I was rather surprised at the casual methods of keeping track of things - just chalk on the concrete containers (don't they know these could be easily brushed off by a passing sleeve?)
The record-keeping at the end of the row was also thoroughly non-technical:
The result is about 240,000 bottles of wine of two different labels from this vineyard:
We asked whether workers migrated among vineyards, but the harvests all take place at the same time apprently, even across regions. So what do these people do for the other 49 weeks? Live on unemployment. Wow.