Working on a vineyard can be full of glamorous activities like nibbling on appetizers while sipping Pinot Grigio on a gorgeous porch as the sun sets over the distant hills. However, it’s also full of unglamorous (but necessary) activities – things like keeping accurate records, waking up early, and fixing grape harvester parts. To enjoy the former, you’ve got to do the latter as well.
Below are five unglamorous realities that are essential to life on a vineyard:
1. You’ll have to deal with unpredictable weather
There is a lot you can control on a vineyard – how often you work, the amount of land you have, and the fertilizers you use to enrich the soil. One thing you can’t control is the weather. No matter how hard you try, the weather is going to do what the weather is going to do.
This unexpected factor can lead to lots of frustrating experiences. For example, wildfires in California and Australia have destroyed many harvests over the years. Likewise, a brief spurt of freezing weather has wiped out a year’s worth of work on multiple Texas vineyards.
2. You’ll have to wake up early
If you want to have a smooth-running vineyard, then your days of sleeping in late are over. Vineyard workers (like most other farmers) are early risers. On most days, this means before the sun is up, you’re up, caffeinated, and on the cold ground working.
The goal is to get a few hours of work in before the hottest part of the day hits. If you’re comfortable with that schedule, then it’s perfect. If you’re not, then you may want to reconsider vineyard life.
3. You’ll have to do a lot of manual labor
Alongside starting work before the crack of dawn, you’ll have to put in a lot of manual labor that can be physically demanding over time. The process of pruning and weeding can get rough on your back and knees after a while. Likewise, the initial planting and subsequent harvesting can require a lot of energy, depending on how automated it is.
4. You’ll spend a lot of money
The reality of managing or owning a vineyard is that it’s expensive. The property itself doesn’t come cheap, and neither does the equipment or labor needed to work it. Usually, these are upfront costs that you must pay before earning a profit from the year’s harvest.
The annual profits depend, in large part, on the weather behaving well. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t care if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on labor and equipment. If it wants to be cold and ruin the grapes, it will be cold and ruin the grapes. That’s why it’s important to have a bit of excess padding in your budget, so the good years can pull you through the bad ones.
5. You’ll make a lot of mistakes
If you’re just starting out in the world of growing grapes, then it’s a near certainty that you’ll make a few mistakes. Learning where to prune, when to prune, and how to prune will take time – and so will a dozen other essential activities. Some mistakes will be small; others will be costly. However, they will all be an essential part of the learning curve.
Keeping the above five realities in mind can give you a more accurate picture of what it’s like to own a vineyard. Although they might be unglamorous, they’re totally worth it if you love growing grapes.