(Saint-Quentin-de-Baron) At sunrise, the secateurs are activated before it gets too hot: in Saint-Quentin-de-Baron, in the Bordeaux vineyards, the 2023 harvest has started despite the heat wave , under a “scorching” temperature that forces the pickers to adapt.
From 7 a.m., when the mercury only dropped to 21 degrees overnight, around fifty seasonal workers were deployed in the vineyards of Château de Sours. Hats, caps, scarves, hoods, sunscreen, everything is good for protecting yourself from the sun.
“Everyone has their scissors?” Porters, be careful with your hoods, don’t hurt anyone,” says José Héraudeau, team leader.
“It’s going to be very hot. So if you feel the slightest discomfort, immediately come and see a manager,” adds this employee of the Performances Vignobles service provider, which makes its workforce available to wine estates.
Sébastien Jacquey, director of the Château de Sours, explains to AFP that he has reinforced the teams and adapted the harvesting times to the high temperatures: six hours a day instead of eight, and at the cooler times.
At the same time, time is running out: the grapes must be harvested before the alcohol level increases too much to make the crémant, a sparkling wine which represents 30% of the production of this 65-hectare estate, owned since 2015 by the Chinese billionaire. Jack Ma, former CEO of e-commerce giant Alibaba.
However, Sébastien Jacquey ensures that “good gestures” are respected: “Knowing how to rest at the end of the row, hydrate well, protect yourself with caps, sunscreen, but also talk to each other if you doesn’t feel well,” he said.
Soon, a skilful choreography begins, between the cutters who pick the bunches by hand and the carriers, strapped to their hood, who transport them to the trailer.
The sun rises above the horizon. In less than two hours, the temperature soared six degrees in the shade, before reaching 34 degrees in the afternoon, according to forecasts.
Some carriers, towels around their necks, mop themselves after unloading their burden. The cutters, on the other hand, try to remain lucid to choose the bunches well, while sheltering from the sun thanks to the foliage.
“You have to find as much shade as possible,” says Anthony Chappel, a 42-year-old seasonal worker, cap on his head.
But the thicker the foliage and the tighter the rows of vines, “the more suffocating it is, the hotter it is and the more dangerous it is,” he notes. “Today I think we won’t have any wind, it’s going to be hot. »
After two hours of effort, the distribution of fresh water is welcome.
“You have to get your head and neck very wet, and drink in small sips,” confirms Véronique Villain, a 58-year-old seasonal worker.
His daughter Aurore Bernard, 35, suffered sunstroke on Monday, on her first day of harvesting.
“My heart raced pretty quickly, with dizziness, ringing in my ears. I was very cold, I was shivering. The team leader brought me back, put me in the shade and wet my head, ”says this worker from the Landes, back to work on Tuesday, shears in hand.
“Everyone needs to know how to react if a colleague is not well,” recalls Sébastien Jacquey. “In the vineyards, you don’t have a parasol, you have to adapt and have the right gestures. »
Especially since the worst is yet to come: Météo-France announces more than 40 degrees on Thursday in Saint-Quentin-de-Baron.
“If we manage to work until noon on Thursday, it will be good, but I have my doubts”, slips Michel Pérez, boss of Performances Vignobles. “Beyond noon, people suffer because it’s uncomfortable. You have to be human. »
In a Bordeaux vineyard very affected in 2023 by the damage of mildew, a parasite half-algae, half-fungus which affected 90% of the vines in New Aquitaine on a more or less large scale, this episode of high heat could on the other hand be positive. for the harvest.
“The heat helps with ripening, it prevents what is rot and dries out pitting problems, so it’s rather interesting,” judge Stéphane Gabard, president of the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC syndicate.