The Harvest

Our friends Ueli and Berty live in a house that goes by the name of "Türli," which means little door. (How cute is that?) The story goes that when they registered to live in their town, the council explained that their house should bear the name "Türli" because long ago in the very spot where their house now stands once stood a little door. Anyway, in their front yard they grow grapes. For weeks I had been bugging Berti about remembering to call me when she and Ueli would have their yearly harvest. With the weather so dreary for the past couple of weeks, I was beginning to think it might never happen.

Today, I finally got to help them pick some grapes, along with Cindy and Doug. These grapes don't go on to become wine. Instead, they yield organic grape juice. Deep purple and plump or white and sweet, we clipped the bunches from each plant and picked out the rotten ones by hand. Because we had to harvest them and get them pressed all in the same day, we worked from morning until evening. I'm exhausted.

After clipping the bunches into a bucket, I planted myself in this quiet corner to prune. Clip, taste, prune, repeat.

After the harvest is complete, Ueli and Berti take the grapes to a lady with an apple press out in the middle of nowhere.

First, we crush them in a giant tub with a wooden masher. Then, the lady begins to arrange the grapes (juice, stems, seeds, and skin) into layers of wood, nylon, and grape-mush. (She sets a wooden frame on top of a flat square of wood, lines it with the nylon, places the grape-mush inside the frame, wraps the grapes with the nylon, then removes the frame, and places a new wooden square on top to form the next layer.) Once the stack is complete, the press begins to squeeze out the juice filtered through the nylon.

Next, the juice funnels into large glass jugs for pasteurization, more filtering, and then one more pasteurization process. The juice will be ready next year when Ueli and Berti bring the next harvest. This year they took home 80 liters of juice from last year's harvest.

Did you know, each plant should carry only 600 grams of grapes for optimal ripening and flavor?

Life lesson from the harvest: "Don't ignore the wrinkled ones." Although many of the wrinkled grapes were sour, some of them were the sweetest of the whole bunch. As for the shriveled ones, that's another story...

Views during the harvest: the peak on the left is Hoher Kasten and the one on the right is Säntis.


  1. What a cool experience! I saw them harvesting the grapes in my little town on a hike last week and would love to experience it for real.

  2. Wow, what an adventure! That's a cute photo of you with the grapes. It sounds like a lot of work but so worth it.

  3. Chantal - I'm glad you think so! I thought it was great, but for some people the idea of all that work and payment in the form of all-you-can-eat grapes is not so appealing. I'd do it again, for sure.

    Fly Girl - thanks! It certainly was work!

  4. Hi Amanda,
    Love your blog and your (very accurate) observations. Will check back with you soon.


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