Two years ago I wrote you never make wine alone, every year I swear I won’t and yet three years in I still do. Things will be different in 2022. I’m hiring a cellar hand, effective immediately.
Your official title will be assistant du cave because you will work in France, although at the moment I can’t tell you where as I’ve changed location every year. I will, however, go as far as to promise that any moves will happen before harvest starts, unlike this year.
At the bare minimum you will speak better French than I do. It would be good if you had prior winemaking experience. Even better if you are handsome, single and own a domaine.
Here are the definitions of some basic tasks you’ll do: ‘cleaning the press’ means picking grape bits out of the cracks with a knife, elbow grease, a brush. Decuvage means holding your breath (Co2!) while trying not to put out your back.
Ideal candidates will be zen masters. There are no definites during harvest, other than that there are no definites. There might be no grapes. Or there are grapes but they are not the grapes I thought we’d be getting en plus the harvest team cancelled so it’s just us.
You must be able to drive, and by drive I mean park. And by park I mean park an overweight 15m3 van in a city as ill-suited to parking 15m3 vans as say, Turin, without cracking the back-right reflector because that apparently costs €400 to replace.
You will be good with numbers. I am not.
The perfect candidate will have a degree in engineering but I will accept a passion for problem solving and basic understanding of gravity.
Speaking of gravity: in the interests of full disclosure, you should know that I don’t work with a pump. Although if someone wants to buy me one, I would gladly change my ways. You will therefore be working with a siphon and buckets. Say you have six 1000L tanks and a bucket holds 10L. You need to transfer them all, often twice. I’ll let you do the maths.
Similarly in the interests of transparency: you should understand that 55% of making wine is cleaning, 45% is moving wine, the rest is logistics. (See above: candidate must be good with numbers).
I am strong. Ideally you will be stronger.
You should enjoy being in the press because you will be in the press so that I don’t have to.
It would help make your life less existentially threatening if you had a blindspot for counting the hours and hours spent doing tedious and repetitive tasks. For example, sorting grapes (in French you’d know that’s triage).
The ideal candidate will have good lung capacity (see: siphon) and humour at 3 A.M. when the tank starts to leak. It would be cool if you can cook, I’d like to actually eat next year.
I’m flexible about your music taste but it would be helpful if you can stomach metal.
No earn while you learn
You will not be paid. I do however believe in exchange. Therefore I can offer you across-the-table access to the winemakers who never email back, wine pretty much on tap and a corner with a cuve in it for you to fill as you please.
If this sounds glamorous, it’s time for some reality. 2022 will be my fourth vintage. In other words, I’m not high up in the grape-buying pecking order. I get cancelled on. I panic. I make stupid mistakes. Harvest when it’s your business is not like working harvest when it’s not your business.
You will become strong. You will be in the thick of it, constantly up to your knees in it. Your toenails will for the next six months be discoloured from all the tannic grape bits. Short of having communed with the holy spirit you will with your own two hands have turned fruit into an alcoholic liquid that people will potentially pay thousands for. Theoretically that is. I still find it awkward asking for €10.
You’ll be able to look back and think what a grand time this was. How much I learned! If nothing else, I promise you this: you will never look at a five euro bottle of wine the same way again.