Home All Who will harvest Queen’s grapes? Romanians can! Romanians will!

Who will harvest Queen’s grapes? Romanians can! Romanians will!

by Maria Olguta Petre
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In the last ten years, the English, the most famous wine merchants, also bet on grapevine growing, benefiting from the Romanians’ native talent to work in the vineyard.

The sparkling wine for the 70th Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

The sad news about the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8th of September 2022 is still stirring the world. As a tiny tribute we ought to remember that in February 2022, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 70 years on Britain’s throne releasing her own wine. Her Majesty’s wine is a traditional sparkling wine made with Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier wine grapes (the same grapes used in Champagne). The grapes are sourced from Kent County and West Sussex County (which in 2022 achieved GI protection), in the south of England.

What may surprise you is that mostly the Romanians are working those specific vineyards, which sourced the grapes for the Queen’s 70th celebration! (They refer to those vineyards as “To the Queen”)

The wine life begins in the vineyard

Recently, English sparkling wine has become popular due to its improving quality. As we all know, primordially great wines start in the vineyard. And those vineyards need to be managed and carefully supervised all year around.

However romantic working in a vineyard may feel like, it is not exactly a dream job. You need to either be passionate, well determined, crazy in love with nature and all its caprices (way too many of those, if you think of British weather!) or to like the stack of money after long hours of physical work. And be prepared to get dirty on drizzly rainy days and sticky from the grapes. Good decisional skills are required too in the vineyard, but that’s the next level.

Romanians have a native talent to mold the Nature in favor of People

Most of the English vineyards are managed carefully with Romanian labor. Your guess was spot on! Yes, Romanians are up to the challenging work in Britain’s viticulture! Moreover, they are highly appreciated for their hard work, resilience, steadiness, and cheerfulness! They are experienced, and skilled in vineyard practices without being educated in viticulture! They are indeed supervised by a handful of skilled viticulturists with Romanian Horticulture degree or with mentorship done in the vineyards of South East of England.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2018, Romanians accounted for the biggest number of new arrivals into the UK- 411,000 (ONS stated 42,000 in 2008) At the moment of writing this article I couldn’t reach an exact number of the Romanian working in UK viticulture because the majority of them are seasonal workers and hard to have an exact number of the employees from the recruiting companies (mostly leaded by our Romanians, well known for our great competitional skills!)

However, the lifestyles are different between the two countries. Romanians seasonal workers in the UK adapt, but do not blend in.

Where do the Romanians work in the English vineyards?

There are 4 major companies specialized in Viticulture in the South of England which use many, but not exclusively Romanian seasonal labor. They also hire domestic workers, Bulgarians or any other.

  • VINE CARE UK
  • VINESCAPES
  • VITIS CARE UK LIMITED
  • VINE-WORKS Ltd.

And they offer similar packages of services like:

  • Labour supply
  • Pest and disease management
  • Vineyard establishment and maintenance
  • Management of plant material
  • Vineyard Infrastructure set up
  • Site Evaluation

The difference is made by the quality of their work, their reliability, their prices, for sure!, their long term results and how capable they are to tailor their services to the specific needs of the clients’ vineyards. Workers need to know exactly how to prune the vines and how much canopy to strip, because each worker can directly influence the fruit yield and quality.

In South East England (Kent, East and West Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight) there are 1500 hectares of commercial vineyard plantings. Champagne vines are planted in this area because it suits the soils – Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier! And even though the vineyards are growing year by year, manual handling is desired for the best quality of these grapes to make the best wines! Therefore, labor shortages cannot be afforded as the quality of the vintage will be compromised.

(to be continued)

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