Situated in Bordeaux, Château la Tulipe is owned by Dutch author and former rock artist Ilja Gort. The château produces an innovative red Bordeaux supérieur that has been winning medal after medal at international wine fairs.
To guarantee this high standard of quality Gort carries out what is known as a ‘vendanges vertes’, a summer harvest. During this preliminary harvest the quality of the crop is improved by cutting away some of the grapes so the remainder becomes richer in flavour, as well as removing excess leaves that obscure the fruit from the sun. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his La Tulipe wine at Sainsbury’s, Gort has decided to invite twenty British wine enthusiasts to join him for this important event this summer.
‘It will be an amazing and unforgettable experience’, claims Gort. ‘For the participants it is a unique opportunity to expand their knowledge of wine and become genuine “wine-tigers” whose professional opinions will never fail to impress their fellow wine lovers.’
Nice, but how much does it pay?
‘The British pickers will spend five days summer-harvesting amidst bountiful birdsong, beautiful women, hunky men, delightful food and the most delicious wines. Payment is in the form of rewarding physical labour, feeling the ‘good kind’ of tired, easygoing companionship, lots of laughter, authentic French food and plenty of wine.’
Gort not only guarantees a ‘unique and character-building experience’, he promises that, after this event the grapepickers will also be ‘intimately familiar with the ins and outs of making a high quality wine.’
Gort calls his grape picking event ‘a hands-on course in wine making at a high class wine chateau’. On top of that Ilja Gort says he will be around daily to fill his guest pickers in on all the practical and technical elements of winemaking.
So how do you select your grape slaves?
‘Haha, it’s not just when it comes to our wine that it’s all about quality,’ says Gort. ‘Also when it comes to our grape pickers. Every applicant will be subject to a stringent selection. We will scrutinize the applicants on ‘virility, capacity for laughter and overall picking-potential’.
Can you describe a day in a life of a grape picker?
‘At the crack of dawn, accompanied by exuberant birdsong, the troupe of wine-tigers and tigresses in the making will head for the vineyard, to exert themselves until midi. At the end of the morning they will amble back to the château, where the triple-starred castle chef is waiting with a mouthwatering déjeuner. At the long and shaded pickers table in the lush château courtyard they will enjoy a slow and lengthy lunch. After that the pickers will have time to rest and digest until the castle bell sounds again. In the afternoon the troupe heads back into the vignobles to spend a couple more hours frolicking among the foliage and harvest some more green grapes. After six pm they can relax, swim and make merry until the time comes for the Grand Diner to be wooed by a choice of culinary delights accompanied by the finest wines straight out of my secret cellar.’
And after diner?
‘That’s where it gets dangerous,’ smiles Gort ‘The grape pichers will spend the night with a last glass of wine, laughing, flirting, dancing and rejoicing until the mantel of darkness cloaks the vineyards and they head to bed. Tired, sated and blushing with their accomplishments of the day.’
Does your castle has enough rooms to welcome all these people?
‘As you can see on our website, Château la Tulipe is a beautiful but modest castle. But the castle park is beautiful and green and quiet. So our grape pickers will have plenty of space to pitch their tent, caravan or campervan.’
For details see www.tulipe.co.uk/summerharvest