A small army of trucks filled with work crews travelling down the back roads of Rama Caida first thing in the morning heralds the beginning of  "cosecha" - the  grape harvest.  This is a time of intense activity and concentrated effort, as the ripened grapes must be picked as soon as they reach their peak, while the sugar content is at an optimal level and the weather is dry.   The seasonal workers come from Bolivia and Paraguay to participate in a month of hard labour,  boarding in temporary camps with the entire crew and working one finca after another.   If you're strong and fast, the earnings can be quite good.
Picture
  






The picker is given a metal bin called a "tacho."  He moves down the vineyard row  collecting grapes and  filling the basket.  A fully loaded tacho weighs 20 kilos.

Picture





The worker hoists the tacho to his shoulder and runs with it to the truck.  

Picture




A wooden plank leads up to the back of the truck.  Balance is important, as the ramp has a tendency to bounce under the combined weight of body and fruit.

Picture







The picker dumps the grapes into the back of the truck.  Another crew member shovels the growing Malbec mountain to distribute the load evenly.

Picture




The foreman tosses a "ficha" or token into the picker's empty tacho.  Payment is made to the worker according to the number of fichas he has collected during the day.  

Picture




At high noon  it's time  to break for lunch.  The crew washes up while  sausages are cooked on a portable asado grill.   They sit in the shade of a eucalyptus tree and enjoy chorizo on a bun with vino casero.  

Picture


A little Bolivian girl plays quietly in the vineyard while her mother  and father relax during lunch break.  She takes a fat cluster of grapes from her mother's basket, carefully wraps it up in her pink blanket, and rocks Baby Malbec to sleep.  

Picture




Work continues throughout the afternoon until all of the grapes have been picked from every row.  

Picture
At the end of the day, the truck leaves for the winery with a full load.  At Bodega Bianchi, it  will join a long lineup of trucks,  all waiting their turn to be weighed  before dumping the grapes into a crusher.  The vineyard, now empty of people and stripped of fruit, looks totally exhausted in the low evening light.   The vines will be heavily irrigated within the next few days, as the harvesting process sends the plants into shock.   They've done their job for this year, providing the key ingredient for another great vintage wine.