I've never been grape picking before, not had the wanderlust need to fly to Oz and pick grapes with a lot of gap-year students and a couple of old hippies. But when the grape harvesting season started recently in Portugal I started to feel the need to snip some grapes and become part of the wine making process.
So instead of the lush vineyards of Bordeaux or the stunning landscape of the Douro wine region in Portugal nor the far off general loveliness of Stellenbosch we plumped for Avelar. Not somewhere (although it pains me to say it) where you would really go for a romantic image of grape picking, complete with wine lodge and Keanu Reeves (if you've never seen A Walk in the Clouds you won't get that). No, Avelar has a good bakery, a hospital, a car show room and is the home of João, whose father in laws grapes we were about to pick.
Now, I do have to say that my knowledge of grape picking does come from the afore mentioned film - A Walk in the Clouds - a romantic image of a family picking grapes, living for the vine, large lunches under the sun, using your feet to crush the grapes and Sideways another wine film, but this includes men reaching a mid-life crisis, alcoholism and having a mental breakdown, so not something to aspire to. Alas, grape picking in Avelar is a little more perfunctionary!
a) As normal with things Portuguese, I seem to be the only girl
b) I'm grape picking with car-mechanics not Keanu
c) It's September and it's still bloomin' hot
d) No one, and I mean no one told it, it's really hard work and there are spiders!
e) Wine no longer crushed by the feet, but through a machine
f) Wine in a vat, starting to ferment looks a bit gross (not quite enough to put me off for life)