la recolte

Rock on -- la récolte commence! That's my belle-soeur, Cécile , who is back--along with her friends, to help us with this third harvest.


la récolte (lah ray kolt) noun, feminine

    : harvesting; collecting; gathering
    : harvest, crop

Audio File & Example Sentence: (check back for the sound file...)

Cette année la récolte des raisins s'annonce bien!
This year's harvest is looking good!


A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

And weeere off! The wine harvest began on Saturday.... and continues today! To the clanking of metal, the hum of the tractor -- and the bark of the mother-dog - I type this early morning dispatch.

We jump-started this, our 2009 récolte,* in a field of grenache where the wind swept swiftly over the low-lying "gobelet"* vines. Arriving with our children, I found the rest of the équipe* had advanced halfway up the vine rows. Max, Jackie and I quickly grabbed buckets and sécateurs* and headed out to the unpicked rangées.*

Right off, I discovered that my cutting shears were dull and tried to trade them off with the grape chef.  Only, Jean-Marc held his own, suggesting I pick a better pair next time...

Tant pis.*  I'd figure out how to trade with him later, meantime I needed to catch up with the others by filling my bucket. To do so meant bending over at the hip to reach the near ground-level grapes. I remembered an astuce* from years of picking: back straight, bend at the knee! And, like that, I fell gently to my genoux* in order to save my back.

An hour or so into the harvest, my knees began to crack and, in order to save them, it was necessary to switch strategies: straighten the legs and bend the back.... either way crack, crack, crack!

I observed the other harvesters, who practiced one or the other back- or knee-saving solutions: my sister-in-law was here helping out, along with three of her girlfriends -- and the four of them came up with yet another idea to stop the pain: le mini-break. I watched as the women set down their buckets and pulled out their tobacco. Next, their backs to the wind, they shook out the dried leaves over thin paper squares for rolling. After a few puffs, they resumed harvesting, the thin, uneven cigarettes dangling from the edges of their mouths as they laughed and chatted, sharing everything from recipes to crude jokes. Hidden behind my row of grapevines, I laughed at their jokes... and longed for their freedom -- or natural expression -- the kind that comes when we are outward focused and not gazing inward, ever questioning. Perhaps the trick is to stop doubting... and just do.

And so I focus outward, on the twisted, dry, decades-old vine before me. The venerable plant is on its last (and only...) leg, like the others in this row, and therefore giving out little bunches of grapes or grappions. * I listen to my brother-in-law curse the grappions, and all this back-breaking bending and knee-splitting squatting for only a few tiny bunches of fruit each time! (He'll have to wait until a day later, when we get to the high (wire-trained) cinsault, to declare such grapes a pleasure to harvest.)

Meantime, others of us try to focus on the short vines and the small pleasures they bring: there are wild fuchsia-colored sweat peas that dot the field, and the sweet scent of fall on the horizon! Other trouvailles* await us as well: it is the old hand-rake that Max finds beneath a tangle of vines ("we'll keep it," his father says, "put it in the tractor!"), and there's the onion sauvage* that Jackie II uncovers. "I'll have it for lunch!" she announces, tucking it in her pocket, resuming her picking.

I listen to Jackie II (a friend of my sister-in-law, who is helping us for the third time) practice her Spanish with an Italian picker/friend, who has learned the language before she did. In focusing on the language, Jackie tells me, she keeps her mind from turning round and round, something (I might add) that tends to happen when practicing the monotonous chore of grape-picking. I take heart to know that even these rock-n-roll women have the same restless mind that I do. Some call it monkey mind, others le diable,* either way a reeling, ego-focused mind is hell on earth. 

Voilà, in a nutshell, the harvest: it is discovery, camaraderie, and -- inescapably -- aching backs and cracked knees. I am learning that it helps to look up, from time to time, beyond the grape rows and the work (and ever-working mind) to the sky or the horizon beyond. It is that outward focus, whether on language or the lointain* -- that keeps us going strong, humming somewhat steadily along.    

~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la récolte =
the harvest; gobelet ("en gobelet") = untrained vines (not held/propped up by a wire); une équipe = team; le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; une rangée (f) = row (trees, vines); tant pis = oh, well; une astuce (f) = clever idea (way to do something); le genou (m) = knee; le grappion (m) = little grape cluster; une trouvaille (f) = a find; sauvage = wild; le diable (m) = devil; lointain = faraway, distant (horizon)



Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham

SmartFrench Audio CDs Intermediate/Advanced

French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student.

A L'Affiche: Best of Les Négresses Vertes

Puppy Update!

See a picture of the dad, here, and read about the lune de miel that he offered our Braise...

Only one silly boy and five girls... silly we had it all wrong at five boys, one girl...

The puppies are walking! Look at this little guy strut his stuff! They are also playing and continue to make their unusual noises (it often sounds as though we had parrots--or tropical birds--in the next room...)
To approve a single suggestion, mouse over it and click "✔"
Click the bubble to approve all of its suggestions.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


You have so much going on!! I recognized ta belle-soeur:) I love how colorfully alive she is~ And the walking pups? Too cute..

La récolte brings me back to Provence last September..Quel beau temps!

Betty Bailey

Kristin, your Croatia photos on cinema verité are fabulous!


Cecile and her friends sound like a lot of fun to do harvesting with. I'll have to sharpen those Felcos and come help with la recolte some time. Puppies are so cute, love the one with the darker tummy. Are you going to keep one or two of them?

tim madigan

Hi Kristin- I enjoy reading your posts and would love to stop by your place to see it in person!(if that's okay with you). I will be in france from 11 sept. to 21 sept. I will be visiting friends in st. emilion and in the massive centrale. not sure where you are located but watching(helping) the harvest would be cool.
Tim Madigan


I am surprised the harvest has started. Isn't this a very early one? A little bending yesterday to cut the low grasses hiding the sprinklers convinced me (this morning!) that I'm probably not a harvester. Good luck with la recolte! I now have a case of the 2007 Mistrals in my cellar. I hope this will be a year Domaine Rouge-Bleu

Jules Greer

Dearest Kristi,

I think your stories for the past 3-4 months have been exceptional...your storytelling is starting to rival mine, only you have the skill to deliver. I love
everything - everyday is a new surprise.
Of course you know you Grandpa was probably one of the greatest storytellers that ever lived - how proud he would be of you today.




Le rentree is busy for you this year - grapes, puppies, school - have fun - it's my favorite time of year.


Betty, Thanks for the great PR! More Croatia photos coming this weekend. The Mediterranean architecture there is so similar to Provence, n'est-ce pas?

Martina: we're going to keep one puppy. Re "Felco" (shears) hey, that kinda makes a cute name....

Tim: because our farm doubles as our home... we discourage "stop bys" and ask that visitors make an appointment first (or risk witnessing the maitresse de maison dissolve into a puddle of sweat on the front porch). Many thanks for your understanding :-) Re location: we are 45 minutes north of Avignon. Hope to see you... when I've got my false teeth in properly! (I stole that line from Jules, who also enjoys looking presentable when guests come over :-)

Gary: yes, it is early (but not too early for the grapes that will go into the rosé wine, which needs acidity.

Mom (Jules): you are the best story-teller. I regret that I did not tape record you last time you were here!

Jeanne: thanks for the rentrée wishes -- school starts Wednesday and we're totally unprepared... but the *grapes* are in!


Chere Kristin,

I would have loved to be there to help you. I once amazed some field workers with my blackberry picking skills. They could not believe how fast i could pick berries while eating them too. But I do believe that this is hell on backs and knees. Meanwhile these puppies are just to die for. O I could just squish them in my arms and kiss their little puppy lips.

Happy Harvest days...



I was just thinking of when la recolte would beguin there. We are still a few weeks away here. There are a few vineyards in our area (Monterey County, CA) that pick by hand. I think both Gallante and Joullian do. I have never picked, but can make a mean Christmas wreath out of the vines later in the year. Good luck, and oh, those puppies look healthy....

Helen Eatwell

Chere Kristin,
I'd like to do the survey on the loss of a pet - since I see it's an American study, is it possible to read/answer it in English?

Marianne  Rankin

What is cinsault?

Anyone who wonders why wines cost what they do should take into account not just the obvious costs of materials, etc., but the real labor that goes into them, especially at harvest time. It is so easy to forget. We appreciate the effort that goes into providing wines.

Jacquie (aka Ariadne MacDuff)

I really like the reflective, philisophical meanderings that your articles have been taking lately. I thought I was the only one who endures the introspective "monkey mind" (never heard that term before) that goes round and round and wishes for a more outward view(if that isn't egocentric I don't know what is). Your article on "mots juste" touched a nerve as well...speaking your mind honestly and not just saying words to appease. These just happen to be two of my habitual practices(and a few others) that I question as of late[must be the dawning wisdom of middle age :)]. Thanks for sharing your meaningful insights.

On a lighter note...the puppies are just precious.


Adorable puppies! Not sure if I've posted before but I love the blog & Ma Mere does too!

Cynthia in the French Alps

Love the tattoo. I think I'd like your sister a lot. And you have my back and knees couldn't last past the first hour. Happy Harvest. Cynthia in the French Alps


Good luck with the harvest...Advil, Advil, Advil! The Number 6 Felco's are my favorite (now that the pointy shovel has kicked the dirt) tool--Felco would make a good puppy name! Love the puppy pictures, too cute.

Know a little something about the monkey mind, but then we all do. It is contrasted with one-pointedness or concentration which along with the physical practice of the asanas (poses), is what yoga is about. Attention to the breath is a way to release the wild monkey's control whether practicing yoga or otherwise. Over-simplification here, of course. But we are not our monkey-minds! Thank goodness!

Sending loving thoughts your way...don't forget to breathe! :)


Helen: yes, I think it is possible to answer it in English. I've forwarded your note on to the right person and you should receive a response soon.

Marianne: one thing I have heard about cinsaut is that these grapes are known for being big. I've heard different stories: "so big that five clusters fill a bucket = cinq grappes/un seau = "cinq seau" (cinsaut)... did you hear the word play there? I've also heard it this way "cinq raisins / un seau" (five grapes fill one bucket) this last "story" must have been told by a Marseillais... who might have just as well said "five sardines to one bucket..." you know, the old "sardine that blocked the port entrance"...

Thanks for pointing out the work involved. Jean-Marc (chef grape) has been working from 7 - 10 pm for the past week, with the help of his brother, Jacques. When we harvest the red grapes (in ten days) he'll be working past midnight, I'm afraid. On verra....

Jacquie, Ninotchka (et Maman), Cynthia, & Pat : thanks for your thoughts -- much appreciated (and the Advil, too!)

Paris Girl

La recolte... sure sounds like hard work. Good luck with that!


Hi Kristin,
I love this post! The way you see the world and the greater lesson in everyday events is such a blessing. I tend to drive myself almost crazy by looking for the meaning in everything, so it's nice to know you share the endless pursuit!

I was in London this past week (and Paris for one glorious day!) and I saw an inscription in St. Paul's Cathedral that I think you'll appreciate, as it stopped me in my day-dreaming tracks!

"To see a World in a grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wildflower
To Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour"

Enjoy the harvest...and all the "fruits" that come with it!


French Country Decor

that is such a cute dog!

Martin Rys

Thank you. Merci.
A beautiful story and pictures.
We just did a harvest in Malibu,CA.
It is such a good feeling when the harvest
is on the way to the winery! (My first).

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)