For wine lovers, any occasion is a good opportunity to drink. Unlike beer or other kinds of liquor, wine is haloed with elegance and sophistication. Drinking a glass of wine doesn’t mean you’ll get plastered, although we must admit it does happen on occasion.
Wine and culture go hand in hand and in almost every country people want to deepen their knowledge about this delicious beverage.
French wine and champagne are the crown jewels of French lifestyle. Both are the crème de la crème, and the idea of spending a day in a French vineyard can be very tempting for those who would do anything to see one.
It is time to venture into the world of wine. Ready?
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farm (WWOOF) is a network of organic farms and growers that give people the opportunity to travel around the world, while in return you contribute in different ways. Lifestyle advisor, expert in French cuisine, and writer of the book Mastering the Art of French Eating, Ann Mah, has been lucky to live the authentic experience.
In her book, Mah tells us how to volunteer in other vineyards —apart from the ones belonging to WWOOF— between mid-August and September. It is often said that volunteer programs are vast, but what many don’t know is that they are strictly limited and have the duty to provide slots to the French first. Consequently, foreign applicants must keep in touch with vineyards well in advance and ensure absolute discretion. This may not be against the law, but it is not exactly legal.
These programs are perfect for people who would like to make a journey across Europe with a limited budget but still want to be able to see as much of the country as possible. Spending a couple of weeks at the fields of France is not an exciting idea for those who would rather visit London, Paris, Bruges, or other famous cities. However, this will guarantee that you acquire much more knowledge about French culture than anyone who spends four days running around Paris trying to sightsee everything.
Although movies like Sideways or A Good Year make an attempt to portray life in a vineyard, they only succeed in capturing the atmosphere, but not in capturing the harsh work of being under the sun for hours collecting the best grapes. No generational knowledge or theory about wine is required, just a bit of practice. That’s why even a wine amateur can attend and walk out as an expert, since living in a vineyard, even if it is for two weeks, provides you with a perspective that is completely different from that of a tourist.
A typical day involves going out to harvest despite the unpredictable weather. There are days where the sun is blazing and others where the rain is pouring down, and also in the good season when the grapes are ripe if there has been a perfect harmony between the earth and weather.
For most people it might be easer to visit a travel website, fill in a form, book a flight, and go abroad. However, this is an adventure for which you need to get involved since the beginning. Of course visit the iconic places like Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy, but also don’t be afraid to go further afield where only formal recruitment is done. It doesn’t matter if the wine is the only thing familiar to you; that can also help you learn about new regions, and thus, new flavors.
Find the best way to make the most of your time in France. Learn about wine and champagne, receive your fees accompanied by the most delicious beverage in Europe. Only by doing so, you’ll find out that there’s more to traveling than hotels, museums, and bars. It’s all about getting to know people, gathering valuable experiences, and transforming your whole life.
Translated by Andrea Valle