The true heroes of the vineyard: Seasonal harvest workers

“Good people are the difference between success and failure.” – If you take a look at our homepage this is one of the first sentences you’ll read. Nowhere is this truer than in the viticulture industry (that’s vineyards to you and me).

With their rows and rows of grapevines, set amongst scenic sprawling landscapes, it’s not unusual to get lost in the beauty of a vineyards. But we have been peaking behind the curtain for decades and know just how important all the seasonal workers are to ensuring the harvest goes smoothly.

In this article, we’ll explore the significance of harvest workers, the unique experience of being one, and how Recruitment South East is at the forefront of this seasonal recruitment drive across Sussex and Kent.

Why Do Vineyards Employ Additional Staff for Harvest?

The harvest season is a bustling time for vineyards. As grapes reach their peak ripeness, there’s a narrow window to get them off the vine and turned into a cabernet sauvignon (or merlot if you prefer).

This seasonal surge in activity means most vineyards need extra hands-on-deck from mid-September to make the most of the hard work they’ve done for the rest of the year. In fact, vineyards often see a doubling or even tripling of their workforce during this period.

It’s not something you’d see in many jobs – except maybe at Woolworths for Christmas in the 90’s – but this influx of workers ensures that the vast acreage of ripe grapes is harvested efficiently and effectively.

Did you know…

  • A delayed harvest can lead to grapes becoming overripe, losing their desired acidity, or being attacked by pests. This not only affects the wine’s taste but also its market value.
  • Different grape varieties have distinct characteristics. For instance, Pinot Noir grapes are notoriously delicate and thin-skinned, making them susceptible to damage if not handled with care.

Therefore, for the wine producers, it’s not just about picking grapes; it’s about ensuring each variety’s unique needs are met to produce the best possible wine.

It really is a sought-after opportunity:

Not sure we’ve mentioned this yet but during the harvest season, there’s a surge in employment opportunities, not just in the vineyards but also in supporting industries like transportation, hospitality, and retail.

Locals love getting involved and supporting their nearby vineyard, as well as socialising with other wine connoisseurs in the community. Maybe more surprisingly though, tourists often flock to wine regions across England during harvest season, eager to experience grape harvests and the once-in-a-year chance to attend exclusive celebrations and tasting events.

So, I you are interested in trying your hand on a vineyard this season we recommend getting your application in early. But don’t worry, you just need enthusiasm and the energy to get up and down the rows. You don’t even have to know your Malbec from your Gewürztraminer at this stage (we googled it, and you can too!).

The Day-to-Day of Harvesting Chardonay

Most seasonal vineyard workers fall into one of two roles, making up the dynamic duo of Grape Pickers and Bucket Runners. Unfortunately, this dynamic duo doesn’t require you to where your pants over your tights.

While pickers are at the forefront, selecting and picking the ripest grapes, bucket runners play an equally vital role. They ensure that the picked grapes are transported swiftly to the collection points, also ensuring the pickers have a bucket to fill all the time.

This synchronization between pickers and runners is akin to a well-orchestrated dance (think more Cotton Eye Joe than The Nutcracker Suite), ensuring the day’s harvest is efficiently collected.

A Role Like No Other

Working in a vineyard, especially during the harvest season, is a unique experience. The backdrop of sprawling vineyards, the satisfaction of seeing baskets filled with freshly picked grapes, and the camaraderie among workers make it a job like no other. It’s physically demanding, yes, but it’s also immensely rewarding.

The vineyard themselves becomes a melting pot of cultures and experiences during the harvest season. Workers from different backgrounds come together, sharing stories, meals, and even songs. This sense of community is one of the highlights of the job.

Many seasonal workers return year after year, not just for the job but for the fun and friendships forged.

The roles are of course well paid, but they also often offer very exclusive rewards and benefits. Many vineyards organise end-of-season parties, celebrating the successful harvest and the hard work of the seasonal staff. Workers also get opportunities to learn about wines, participate in wine tastings, and even get discounts on purchases.

Recruitment South East’s Role in the Harvest Season

Every year Recruitment South East takes on the mantle of finding the perfect seasonal workers for vineyards across the South East. With our extensive network, understanding of the industry, and rugged determination, we ensure that vineyards have a reliable, friendly, and sociable team of grape pickers and bucket runners, ready to take on the harvest season.

Although it’s definitely hard work finding hundreds of candidates annually, it’s also one of our favourite times of year. If you want to learn more about our commitment to the local vineyards of the South East, read our recent Chapel Down Vineyards case study.

Seasonal harvest workers are the backbone of the viticulture industry. Their dedication, passion, and hard work ensure that we get to enjoy some of the finest wines the region has to offer. And with an experienced specialist agency like Recruitment South East, vineyards can rest assured that they have the best recruitment partner on their side.

If you’re intrigued by the world of vineyards and are considering becoming a part of this vibrant community, don’t hesitate. If you would like to enquire about becoming a seasonal vineyard team member, reach out to us today!

There’s a grape big world out there, just waiting for you to vine’d it. (Puns definitely intended)


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