The vendanges or grape harvest / Las vendémias
Vineyards and wine have been part of the culture of the inhabitants of the Corbières and Minervois regions since the first stocks were planted, back in the Roman era when a flourishing economic activity linked the port of Narbonne to Rome. The wine-growing industry made a huge leap forward in the mid-19th Century when a highly diverse and self-sufficient production was abandoned. After the ravages caused by phylloxera and downy mildew the wine-growers went about replanting. The 1907 demonstrations, led by Marcelin Albert, a wine-grower and café owner from Argeliers, resulted in laying down some precise rules with regard to the production of natural wine. Mechanization made working in the wine-growing industry less hard, but it also played a part in the deterioration of human relationships.
Excerpt from Las vendémias (C. Limouzy , in Vilatges al País-Canton de Durban T I, p. 123) :
Dins las petitas còlhas
Se passa en familha,
Lo cap de còlha es lo gorbejaire,
Regardatz-lo anar venir dins la vinha
Òm diriá un parpalhòl que butina
Va, ven de la còlha a la semal
E los copaires vujan al senhal,
En cantant va de la semal a la còlha
Para l’esquina, remena la mai mòlha
En s’entornant pòrta la vendémia a bon pòrt
Car de rasims gostoses li an remplit lo gòrb.
In the small groups of grape-pickers / This is done with one’s family / The head of the family is the one carrying the basket / Watch him come and go in the vineyard / Doesn’t he look like a butterfly flying from flower to flower gathering pollen? / He comes and goes from the group to the harvest bin / The pickers empty their buckets when the signal is given / He comes and goes from the bin to the group, singing all the time / He turns his back on the pickers and shakes up the slowest among them / On returning, he delivers the harvested grapes to their destination / for his basket was filled with some tasty grapes.
There are wine-growers who still hand-pick their grapes. La còlha is the group of men and women picking the grapes. There are the men and women cutting off the bunches of grapes: la mossenha is the one who sets the pace. If anyone forgets to cut off a bunch of grapes, he or she’d better beware: he or she might end up with a bunch squashed in his or her face (mostar)! The gorbejaires (those who carry the baskets on their backs) collect los ferrats / the buckets when they are full.
The Dius-a-vòl takes place at the end of the grape harvest, celebrating it with a festive meal washed down with lots of wine. The festivities organized around the vins primeurs and the castanhadas (las castanhas e lo vin novèl fan dançar las filhas) (=chestnut festival: ‘chestnuts and new wine make the girls dance’) have replaced the more traditional ways in which the end of the grape harvest used to be celebrated.