Do you wanna know how to find the best grape picking jobs in France this year?
You might have dreamt of driving off to the lovely French countryside and sipping wine from the best wineries of France. But, that is so expensive, right?
Well, YES, it is!
That is where grape picking comes into play. Oh, you don’t know what grape picking is? Then, stick around 🙂
Now, it is not all rainbows and sunshine. As the old saying goes: ‘There is no such thing as something for nothing’.
Grape picking is hard work even if you don’t mind doing 20 pushups clapping your hands but if you keep a positive attitude and focus on the good things the rewards are easy to spot.
You could meet people from all over the world, get a nice tan and your butt in shape, take in the scenery and create memories that will last forever, all while saving hard in a short amount of time.
If you are like me, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal!
It is such a great experience. That’s why many people choose to do it in exchange for food and accommodation only and some even pay for it.
However, finding good places is not that easy, because they are not advertised on the Internet.
WWB Writer, Marco, has put together the Ultimate ‘Best Grape Picking Jobs: France 2021’ Guide, just for you!
Marco has extensive experience, since he has done it for three harvest seasons in a row and he knows how to find the best grape picking jobs in France.
So, in this article he will share how to make this experience unforgettable and hustle-free.
Let’s dive right in.
Summary of all the best grape picking jobs in France (and how to find them!)
- Appellation Contrôlée
- Pole Emploi and Anefa
- Work Exchange Platforms:
- Useful Websites
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Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.
How Do You Pick Grapes for a Job in France?
What are grape picking jobs in France like?
First things first. What is grape picking?
‘Le Vendanges’ – as it is called in French – is the time of the year when a staggering number of seasonal workers are welcomed in the countryside for the grape-picking season.
So, ‘Le Vendanges’ refers to the wine harvest. There is no actual word for it in English.
The harvest season usually starts in late August and it ends as late as the beginning of November, although it depends on how ripe the grapes are and in which region they are in.
A farmer’s grape harvest usually takes between 1 to 3 weeks, but it can take longer due to the weather, so you can expect to work 8 hours a day until the end of the ‘vendange’.
However, if you sign a contract – more on this later – for a longer harvest, then you will likely work 6 days a week and get some well-deserved rest on Sundays.
Sometimes, you are off for a couple of days during the week due to the weather and you get to work on Sunday – which is fine once you are there!
These days most grapes are harvested mechanically, but there is a lot of manual work required, in the 750.000 hectares of vineyards in France, especially at high-quality and organic farms or in the areas where the plots are steep.
Even though the benefits of hand-picked vs machine-harvested grapes might not outweigh the costs in the future, there is still a great demand for human labor. Each year, there is actually a huge demand for seasonal agricultural workers in France, with an estimated number equals to 200.000 units.
What does that mean to you? Well, there are still quite a few grape picking jobs in France.
So if picking grapes as a job in France piques your interest, read on and seize this opportunity until you can!
Why Picking Grapes in France – And Not In Other Countries?
Immerse Yourself In The Local Culture
Grape picking in France has a long and rich history which dates back to as early as the 6th century BC. France is one of the leading nations when it comes to fine wines, champagnes and liqueurs with over 3000 different types of wine grown in vineyards throughout the country.
This cultural heritage is embedded into daily work.
Sure, at the end of the day, it is about bending over or squatting down and picking fruit, but the ‘ambiance’ – the atmosphere is very cozy and unique.
Working side-by-side with the ‘Patron’ -the owner- (well, that doesn’t happen in bigger vineyards, but in most cases the person-in-charge also picks grapes, which does not make it feel like slavery work!), binging on ready-sliced meat and French cheese, snacking on delicious chocolate and sipping wine in the field makes the whole thing way more enjoyable.
Join The Army Of Seasonal Workers
There is an abundance of seasonal work options in France.
That is great for everyone who wants to get some experience abroad, or get out of the city for a little while, without breaking the bank or stressing too much about it.
So, if you are on a tight budget or you don’t really feel like planning ahead for your holidays, then a working holiday might be a great fit for you.
It might sound too good to be true, but since you have little to no costs you end up saving money (by not paying for your holidays) and earning decent money.
You can actually earn (and save) just over 1000EUR(1192USD) a month, or even more than that.
If you want to know more about how to earn money by picking grapes in France, then scroll down.
What Are The Requirements To Get A Grape Picking Job In France?
If you are an EU citizen, then the process to sign a contract becomes much easier.
If you are not an EU citizen, then it is a bit more complicated in terms of visa requirements.
In both cases, you might want to get travel insurance to put your mind at rest.
Although it is not mandatory, it is recommended to cover damages as a result of theft, for instance. Although the atmosphere is usually great at good vineyards, you’ll never know.
However, the farmer is legally bound to insure you against accidents during working hours, so that is not an issue at all.
In the next section you can find out how to secure a contract and find a job.
So, here are the legal requirements to get a grape picking job in France.
If You Have An EU Passport
In this case you just need to show up and hand over your ID and your EU health insurance card – you should already have it – to the ‘Patron’(the boss!) for the paperwork.
Before the start of the vendange you will need to sign a full-time contract and commit to work for 8 hours a day until the end of the ‘vendange’ (one or days off are provided for longer harvests – more than 10 days).
If you want to receive the money via bank transfer, then you will also need a ‘Carte Vitale’ – the health insurance card and a French bank account.
If you do not have one you can open an ad hoc bank account -‘Compte Nickel’– at local tobacco shops (as long as you have a temporary residence address in France) and you are good to go.
Alternatively, if you are shrugging your shoulders, thinking that this is too much of a drag, but you really want to do it, then you can just get paid in cash.
So, if you want it hustle-free just bring your ID (and visa, if you are not an EU resident) and be prepared to receive a few hundred euros in cash. That means, if you are the cautious type of person, you could get an anti-theft backpack on here.
If You Don’t’ Have An EU Passport
There are no two ways about it.
You need to get a visa. That is a bit more complicated, but absolutely possible.
If you are young (18-30/35), then you can get a working holiday visa and your country must have signed a bilateral agreement with France. This visa is intended for people aged between 18 and 30 (35 in some countries). So, if you are interested, you can find more information here.
I have met a guy from the US at a vineyard, so it is possible. If you want to do it, just do further research and go for it.
However, if that sounds daunting or it does not address your concerns, keep reading and you will discover how to know more about it without much digging.
How Do You Find The Best Grape Picking Jobs: France 2021?
1. Decide Where You Want To Go
There are 3 main factors to consider when you decide where you want to go:
If you want to enjoy the beauty of the lovely French countryside in early to Mid-September and spend the majority of your days wearing a T-shirt, while the sun kisses your face, head over to the following areas:
- Southern Rhône Valley
- Northern Rhône Valley
- Bordelais, Burgundy
- Bugey and Savoie
- Jura, Centre
- Loire Valley
This is where you also will also find the cosiest atmosphere you could ever imagine.
So, if you don’t mind hard work, but you want to sign up for a replenishing experience with a bit more comfort, then you must head to one of those places.
If you are more of a Viking-type of person, you enjoy camping and the cold doesn’t get you (and ,in some cases, you want to raise more money), then you should look for opportunities that usually start in Mid to End of September in the following regions:
- Champagne Early
The timing is not set in stone, as it depends on how ripe the grapes, but it is a fairly decent outline.
Also, bear in mind that some vineyards are more corporate-oriented, especially in Bordeaux, so you could make more money in some cases, but people in charge are way more business-oriented. That means that pickers might be urged to work faster more often and that probably gets in the way with your idea of a laid-back summer vibe.
2. Leverage 5 Channels To Find A Job
It is all great, but how do I find the job? Well, this is the type of actionable guidance you can find on this blog.
You have 5 options:
In some places, the working conditions are not really that good and the morale is not good, which does not make it the best working holiday.
If you want to take the plunge without doing the heavy lifting yourself, the best option is to rely on a third-agency called Appellation Contrôlée.
Not only do they have an extensive network of wine growers all around the Beaujolais and Maconais regions, but they also provide board and lodging. In addition, they work with farmers who usually hire pickers from all over Europe.
So, if you are looking for a more international vibe, look no further.
The cost for their service is 99EUR(118USD), which you can easily make back in 1-2 days of work. You can find more details about the salary further below.
Again, finding a good place of work in France is not simple. Not everywhere picking is done by hand or are food and accomodation provided. So this is a good deal, as I have used their service twice and I was very happy with it.
Pole Emploi and Anefa
In case you speak French (or you are a pro at Google Translate :)) you can take advantage of these two government websites.
If you are an EU citizen, you can register with Pole Emploi and browse through many job ads. All you need to do is type ‘Coupe des Vendange’ or ‘Porteur des Vendanges’, and call the farmer.
If you are planning ahead of time, then you can select the best fit for you.To be truthful, I have used it to find last-minute opportunities.
In this case, the process is time-sensitive, which means that once you find a good place, call the farmer right away and if you are confident that it is the right opportunity for you, then agree with the farmer and get to the vineyard.
Although it might sound sketchy, it works pretty well and I have found a good place with this channel. However, you need to sharpen your instincts and gauge any option carefully in order to avoid bad experiences.
For instance, once I got a job in the Bordeaux area at a big corporate Chateaux with no food and accommodation, no wine, no water(for real? YES!).
Oh, that also came with a nasty boss, who proudly stated at the beginning of the whole thing, that we were supposed to work as fast as we could to make up for the huge cost he had to bear for seasonal employees.
That means that we could take hardly any break during the day.
This is one of those grape picking jobs in France you want to avoid! I got fired after one day and many people left anyway. After that, we found a much better place in the same region (even though we got paid with a couple of weeks of delay).
In this way you will avoid places that treat workers as cannon fodder.
Alternatively, another online source to find grape picking jobs in France is Anefa, run by the Association Nationale pour l’Emploi et la Formation en Agriculture – the National Association for Employment and Training in Agriculture.
I have never used it, but some people recommend it on the Internet, so you might want to check it out.
Work Exchange Platforms
If you are not interested in making money and picking grapes in France in exchange for food and accommodation tickles your fancy, then head over to these work exchange websites:
Type ‘grape picking jobs’ and find the right place for you.
You need to register with them and pay an annual fee, which is lower than 50EUR(60USD) and find as many work exchange places, as you want in Europe and worldwide (only in France with WWOOF).
In case, you don’t speak French and you want to get paid work without paying any fees you can google ‘Grape picking france jobs’ and you might find some websites which recommend vineyards and even provide contact details, like this one.
Although, I haven’t vetted the places personally, they are recommended by someone who has done it, so it is worth checking.
As for word of mouth, it is usually great.
But, in my experience, even once you are there the farmers usually can’t recommend other places, because most of the harvests of their area end when you finish working with them.
My Best Pick(s)
I have worked at 6 vineyards (so I have seen the good, the ugly and the bad) and I have been referred to a couple of places that are ok like ‘Domain Le Tracot’(you can reach them out here) and Chateaux Emeringes.
Others were decent, but I would not recommend them to a solo female traveller. Others were good, but I have worked without a contract for them, so I can’t recommend them here.
Therefore, I can only recommend one place in earnest.
Here, the harvests last for about two weeks, they offer board and lodging or a nice space to set up your tent, should you need some privacy.
You are provided with plenty of good food and wine and people are genuine and nice and there is usually a vibrant international atmosphere. The place is easy to reach and you can count on favourable weather conditions.
Below, you can find more details about working at a French vineyard.
The place is called Chateau Pierreux and if you don’t like this place you should not go grape picking anywhere else. Ok, maybe there are fancier and better places, but overall it is a great deal.
I have worked for them for two harvest seasons in a row and I have really enjoyed my time there.
You can find all the information that you need here:
Chef de Culture
Tel : 06.61.49.16.17
Fax : 04.74.03.18.39
Mail : email@example.com
Tip: If you have no experience picking grapes in France, Chateau Pierreux is a great choice. I called them right before the start of the vendange for two years in a row and I found work easily.
It is a big Chateau so you should have no problem even at a moment’s notice. However if you don’t find any opportunity there, then Apcon is your second best choice.
Once you are done with the first harvest, in case you are hungry for more adventure, then you can look into the Pole Emploi, or ask some French fellow picker to help you and have a look for you (and even make a few phone calls for you).
How To Get There
Assuming that you found work through Apcon, or you are going to Chateau Pierreux don’t bother searching for ways to get there.
I got you covered on this as well.
Most likely, you will need to make your way to Lyon. You can easily find a cheap flight with Skyscanner and pay as low as 25EUR(30USD), if you are based in Europe.
Don’t mind travelling by bus?
In some cases it is even cheaper than that.
Once you are there, you can hitchhike to the place. Just kidding. Make arrangements so that they will pick you up and take you there.
Great. You are all set! Let’s see what a typical day at a vineyard is like.
Is Grape Picking Hard Work?
Grape picking is demanding physical labour and it can be challenging.
If you search for more information on Google, you might find a few articles that label grape picking in France as ‘backbreaking work’.
You spend your day on your knees, squatting down or bending over when doing grape picking jobs in France.
It makes sense, right?
If you know what you are doing (and are reasonably fit, not super fit), then you will breeze into a 14-day-grape picking harvest with no aches and pain.
You wanna know how? Skip through and read my unique tips at the end of the article.
In this section, I am going to describe what it is like to work at a traditional vineyard in Bejaoulou (I will use Château Pierreux, as an example).
A Day In The Field
If you are not an early riser, you are not going to like this.
You wake up at 6.30 in a cozy room, shared with fellow pickers (or in your tent). You put on all the appropriate clothing – more on this later – and get yourself ready.
You slide into the dining room, which is 10 to 20 minutes away on foot, depending on the location of your dorm and give yourself a treat with some bread, butter and jam and some typical French tasty and energizing food.
Alternatively you can skip breakfast and sleep a bit longer. Just don’t! You will need breakfast.
You make sure to arrive at the pick-up location on time.
That’s very important – they might lay you off for being late. There are two strict rules:
- be on time and
- work reasonably hard (which is don’t slack off)
Honestly, I was super slow – the slowest – during my first ‘vendange’, but my boss was really nice, so she never ‘told me off’. But you must arrive on time, that’s mandatory.
So, you jump on a van, sit back, relax and hit the field by 7.30am.
You have two options:
- either you pick up a cutter and pick grapes, or
- you take the bucket and work as the bucket man – ‘the porteur’.
That’s what they call it.
Most women pick grapes and have a stab at being the ‘bucket girl’ for a couple of hours, just for kicks.
I loved it, because I did not mind carrying weight, but I was not eager to spend the whole day with my back bent over.
You work until around 10.30am when you stop for the coffee break.
It is a typical breakfast in the field. You usually are very hungry at this point, even if you had breakfast at 7.00am. So you can recharge your batteries with ready-sliced meat and bread, cheese and chocolate and to top it off a cup of wine (or 2+ for some).
After 20-30 minutes you test your will and you go back to work until lunchtime, around 12.30pm.
You have lunch and get a well-deserved nap and go back to the field until 6.30pm.
At that point, you take a shower and you have dinner. If you are in the mood you hang out with some good folks until your body reminds you that you are no longer 16 and you must go to bed (if you are 16 get some sleep anyway – you will crave it after a couple of days).
Rinse and repeat.
Now it doesn’t sound that thrilling if I put it this way, but I can tell you that the mixture of working and living with complete strangers, pushing the boundaries of your physical endurance and singing in the field can free up your mind and gives you the boost that you need to get back to your life all pumped up.
On top of that, you get to wander in a beautiful scenery during your days off, visit the ‘canteen’ where the alchemy of grapes takes place and taste the best local wine during the goodby celebration when the ‘vendange’ is over, (the wine that you drink everyday is not of highest, but it is good enough).
How Much Do You Earn Picking Grapes?
What’s the salary for grape picking in France?
Good question! Glad you asked 🙂
You will be paid the minimum wage, which is 10.25EUR(12.21USD -gross)
Taxes and social insurance will be deducted as well as food and accomodation(in case that is provided).
So, you can expect to make around 53EUR(63USD) a day, if you choose to get food and accommodation. So you will leave the Chateaux with 600-700EUR(715-835USD) in your pocket, or more (assuming 12 days of work).
Sometimes, it might happen that you don’t feel well and you want to take a morning or a day off. As long as you let your boss know, that’s totally fine and they will deduct it from your salary.
Do you want to decide what and how to eat?
Don’t fret! Some vineyards will let you decide that, while others won’t even provide board and lodging at all.
Should that be the case you should get an additional 100EUR(120USD)(12 days of work).
That’s the salary for a picker, while the ‘bucket guy/girl earns 2 additional euros a day to make up for the heavy load carried on his shoulders.
That’s it. So that’s the pay for grape picking in France.
Food And Accomodation
Flash News: most vineyards don’t provide board and lodging. That’s why getting a job through Apcon is such a good deal.
However, cabins at the vineyard are no Hilton luxury room with a balcony.
If you don’t mind staying in a shared dormitory, you will have all you need to mingle and connect with other people and get some rest. Heating is usually provided.
If you do value privacy, I strongly recommend that you bring your own tent (if you have also your own car, that’s even better!).
If you have a car and the vineyard is not too far away, you could try Couchsurfing or team up with other pickers or friends and rent a holiday home (although that will probably cost you your whole salary).
If you are not in for the money and you don’t mind doing some planning that is also an option. Lastly, you could look for a campsite renting a mobile home.
Wherever you choose, make sure to block some time away for your daily self-care routine and spend some time on your own – check out my unique tips below.
Although you get 3 copious meals and 2 coffee breaks that will fill your stomach for good at some vineyards, that’s not the case everywhere.
Getting your own food usually requires having a car,so that you could get to local shops nearby. Honestly, that’s too much hustle.
That’s why I strongly recommend you find a place where food and lodging is provided.
Did you miss my tips on how to find the best grape picking jobs in France? Scroll back to the previous chapter 🙂
Unique Tips – From Someone Who Has Done It Many Times
Learn Basic French – Seriously?
Some people strongly recommend that you learn Basic French.
Although, learning the basics can go a long way, you don’t really need to. At least, one of the farmers usually can understand or handle a basic conversation in English.
If that is not the case, most of the fellow pickers usually speak good English.
If you aim to find work through the Pole Emploi, then you might need to learn at least a couple of French words, such as ‘travailler’ (work), ‘vendange’ (wine harvest), ‘picker’(cueilleur).
That’s it. If you get a local to make the phone calls for you, you won’t even need that.
That said, learning a new language is fun and you could even challenge yourself to learn a word or two a day and practice with your coworkers or the farmers.
Outfit And Gear
Most grape picking tools are usually provided on the spot.
All you need is wearing comfortable clothes. Make sure to pack a lot of T-shirts (you will sweat a lot :)), a couple of jumpers for colder days as well as shorts, tracksuit.
Sometimes you might find yourself walking on a rocky trail, so you might want to get a pair of sturdy shoes.
These days, farmers use a lot of chemicals so I haven’t come across lots of insects, spiders or mosquitoes. That said, you might indeed find some insects. Since repellents are not always provided, if you like to plan everything safely beforehand, make sure to get all you need to chase your worries away.
In the first half you will most likely enjoy sunny days and a temperate climate. Don’t forget to buy sunscreen!
Quick summary of what to pack :
Self-care Daily Routine
Alright! Grape picking need not be a backbreaking job, if you know what to do.
First off, you will be taught the right technique, once you arrive at the vineyard. So make sure, to bend over without hunching over and curving your back. If you can’t squat properly, practice before you go.
Then, here is a pro tip for you.
Every morning and most importantly at the end of the working day make sure to stretch at least for 10-20 minutes. It might not seem that hard, but trust me, after stressing your body all day long you don’t feel like stretching at all.
Test your willpower and just do it.
It will make a huge difference and you will have little to no pain (or at least much less pain) in your muscles.
Remember to shower as well! That will be easier.
By the way, you can also find other types of fruit picking jobs in France, in case drinking wine for a couple of weeks does not fit you.
If you google ‘fruit picking jobs france’, you might find some information related to fruit picking in France.
Again, I recommend you look into the Pole Emploi for this kind of opportunity as well. I have met many people who have worked as apple pickers for over a month, so just dig in and you’ll find what suits you.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and you are now more than excited to plan your grape picking jobs in France adventure!
So get ready for your next adventure and have fun!
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