The beginning of autumn is a special time in the Stuttgart region. As we enjoy sunny days and mild temperatures, a chill creeps in at night. This contrast in temperature leads to a new sight - farmers, up in their vineyards, inspecting their grapes, trying to find the exact right time when the balance between the naturally-produced sugars and tannins will lead to the best possible wine.
Then suddenly, with very short notice, it's time to harvest! Here in the Württemberg region of Germany, the majority of wine grapes are grown in smaller family plots. The farmers enlist friends and family, hopefully with flexible schedules, to spend a few days laboring on the steep hillsides picking grapes, enjoying glorious views and camaraderie over lunch (and wine, of course).
I've talked to many people who travel long distances and spend a lot of money to take part in a wine harvest in Italy or France, not realizing that the opportunity to do so exists right here, in nearby Esslingen. For the first time this year, Stuttgart Steps tours is partnering with Ellen Thomas of Esslingen Tours, Tastings, and More to invite you to have an immersive experience harvesting wine grapes in Esslingen starting, well, any day now!
This is not a guided tour like my other offerings, but an activity. You'll drive or take the train to Weingärtner Esslingen cooperative winery, which you may know from the Esslingen Wine Walk. After parking at their newly-renovated facility, you'll then meet the grape farmers and your fellow workers.. You'll be transported into the vineyards and spend the morning picking grapes (and of course, snapping pictures!). This will be followed by a break for lunch prepared by Oma (with plenty of wine) and then returning to the vineyards until that day’s plot is finished.
This is real physical labor, not a tourist wine-tasting experience, with sharp shears on sometimes muddy hillsides - you will be tired when you’re finished! But in addition to the hearty lunch, you'll be rewarded with a bottle of wine for your efforts and memories that will last a lifetime. You’ll get a chance to bond with other English-speaking workers and German-speaking locals laboring side-by-side with you to finish the harvest. This is best thought of as a cultural experience and a way to meet interesting new people! It is important to note that if you reserve to work a shift that you take the commitment seriously - any missing pair of hands is more work for everyone else.
We are waiting on the winegrowers to find out how many volunteers are needed and on what days. It's expected the first day will be between 19-21 September, and there may be up to 7 days needed after that. Some shifts will fall on weekdays, and others on weekends, through the 2nd week of October.
To find out more information and get on the list for a shift once they’re announced, please join the Esslingen Tours, Tastings, and More, where I am administrator and will be coordinating the harvest shift schedule largely by Facebook Messenger. Please contact me if you do not use Facebook to discuss alternative means of communication. Please note there is a $10 (USD) fee payable in advance to reserve your space on a shift. This fee is to compensate myself and Ellen for the very time-consuming effort of coordinating many people and shifts, as well as advertising the opportunities.
This is a really unique experience that I've been recommending to my tour guests on my Vineyard Wine Hikes and Esslingen City Tours for years, and I'm really excited to be a part of it! See you in the vineyards!