This summer, an American expat living in Exeter joined a local vineyard to take part in the harvest. ukvine.com caught up with her to toast some star spangled grape picking
American citizen Susan Tater has come to live in the UK for two years with her husband. Settling near Exeter, Devon she “assumed” that England produced wine but had never given it much thought.
This changed when Tater, a Michigan native who is connecting with her homeland through a blog on her local newspaper, The Voice, about her life in Britain, encountered a flyer in her village. A recent blog has highlighted her vineyard experience. She wrote on her blog last month that she “noticed a flyer in the village” saying Kenton Vineyard, the local vineyard, was looking for new recruits to pick the autumn grape harvest.
She says: “As far as the experience goes, it was tremendous and I have nothing negative to say. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. A little manual labour in the great outdoors: it was bliss.”
Tater has a background in education and this was the first time she had undertaken grape picking, though she has enjoyed vineyard visits in northern Michigan and Napa, California.
She admits that in the short time since her harvesting work finished she has not had the opportunity to taste English wine, though she has every intention of rectifying that.
While she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Kenton Vineyard, in itself grape picking may not present itself as a complete holiday in the UK for Americans.
She says: “We are expats living in rural Devon for two years. As far as telling Americans to come here for a visit, we have encouraged many folks to come across the pond for a visit. As far as telling them to come here to pick grapes, I wouldn’t imagine that it would be a much different experience in the States.”
The matter of who picks the grapes that ultimately turn up in a bottle of wine is founded essentially on the size and volume of the estate, believes Matthew Bernstein, proprietor, Kenton Vineyard.
He says: “The term “foreign picker” to my mind conjures up people who have come specifically from abroad to pick over here, often Eastern Europeans.
“This was not the case with Susan, whom I understand to be over here for at least a year. We have a core group of pickers, all local, and every year I advertise in our neighbouring villages for people who want to join this team. Susan lives in one of these and responded to the advert. I do not therefore consider Susan to be a foreign picker at all: she is a local picker who happens to be American. She was by the way an excellent picker and a pleasure to have around.”
He considers that her experience is very different from someone who has come to the UK to work for a gangmaster on a very large vineyard.
“The picking at Kenton Vineyard is serious, but sociable, and each year a good team ethic is created. People always seem to enjoy it.”