How Wine Paid For My First Trip To Europe

Back in 2004 I wanted nothing else but to leave New Zealand …

I HATED my life there, and felt like I wanted to leave everything behind and go as far away as I could, but before I could do so, I needed to get enough money to buy a plane ticket out of there.

So I got a job at a vineyard working 12 hour night-shifts every day for 8 weeks, making 12 dollars an hour.

It’s not the best place to work if you want to save money for a round the world trip, since it’s a pretty crazy job BUT if you like wine – you will love working there…

Working in a vineyard you learn so much about wine, and realize that wine is not just a drink, but something more.

The progress from picking the grapes to the finished product is a long, dangerous journey – and you truly get a whole new perspective on how wine is made, finding out many things you really don’t want to know.

I never thought that wine could be such a scientific process, and yes, I screwed up more than just a couple of times…

One night at 3am I had to go on top of a 15 meter high wine vat and pour over 20 kg of sugar inside to help the fermentation process.

At the time, I was sh*t scared of heights, but I was the new guy so I had to get up there and do it. I poured the huge bucket of sugar in as fast as I could so I could get down faster.

Little did I know that if you pour it slightly too fast, the sugar will react with the wine and can explode – spraying wine everywhere!

I turned around, and suddenly heard a loud rumbling noise from inside the vat – the whole thing exploded over my head, drenched me in wine and covered the guys 15 meters below – I had wasted 50+ liters of wine all over the ground in under 2 minutes… :S

Working there I drank more wine than water, not while working, but whenever we had finished we could basically drink as much wine as we wanted from all over the world.

A few of my favorite international wines were Chateau La Lagune from France and the Innocent Bysander wines from Australia.

We joined the official wine tours and got to taste and compare different wines, all from the cheapest wine to one of the world’s most expensive (which for the record tasted like sh*t, all the money was spent on the gold label).

We learned that good wine doesn’t have to be expensive, and that expensive wine doesn’t have to be good.

When the season was over, we were all given 12 big bottles of wine, which we by that time had learned how to finish pretty fast.

I left with not only enough money to buy my ticket to Europe, but with a new interest for wine, something which I had never paid much attention to before.

Wine tasting and wine tours are often something of a luxury event, but in New Zealand and Australia it’s actually really affordable, and many vineyards (although not the dodgy one I worked at) let you see the whole process of how wine is made.

So if you want to do something slightly different on your next trip to Australia or New Zealand, visit a vineyard – it really is a great experience!

(photo credits: 1)

18 Responses to How Wine Paid For My First Trip To Europe

  1. Josh June 23, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    haha this is a great story, and an exciting way to save up for your RTW trip, thanks for sharing the story.

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

      Hey Thanks Josh – yeah a great story, but also a pretty challenging job :p though it was nice to get away and explore Europe instead …

  2. Anthony Middleton June 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    This makes me love wine EVEN MORE!

  3. Caroline Eubanks June 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I definitely thought about doing this in Australia (and I still may) but it’s for sure a unique way to save for a trip. I’m working at a bar in Sydney to save up to see the rest of the country.

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

      Aussie would be a fun place to work like this, the wine there really is amazing, however working in a pub also is a fun way to save up some cash 🙂

  4. Debbie @ European Travelista June 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    This sounds like it was a great experience even if you had to work crazy hours!  Plus you gained such valuable information on wine 🙂

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks Debbie – yes a really great experience, though I didn’t think so at the time, and it did teach me how to enjoy a nice glass of wine.

  5. Therunawayguide June 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Northern California is the same way. Wines as good as France but with out the snobbery and high prices. Nothing like working on a vineyard to cure depression.

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      I have heard that Northern California is like that – a few of the guys I worked with had also worked there – sounds like a great place as well.

  6. Crazysexyfuntraveler June 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    I have never visited a vineyard but would love to! I don’t drink wine but love grapes!

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      your perfect job then would probably be that of the grape picker – you can then eat as many grapes as you like all day long :p

  7. The Dropout June 24, 2011 at 5:04 am #

    Working at a winery? Sounds like my dream job. Apart from the wine-sugar explosions, that it.
    I think saving for an overseas trip is really hard work, no matter what job you do. You just have to stay focused on your goal.

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      yeah you are right – I worked there for only 8 wks, but that was enough for me to get a flight to Europe – however once I arrived in Europe, staying there with only 100euro left in my pocket was a whole dif. CRAZY story …

  8. Delhi Agra Tour Packages June 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    This really life long experience for you!!

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 29, 2011 at 4:29 am #

      you are so right, it was an experience that will prob. stay with me forever.

  9. Megan June 29, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    Sounds like hard work! Did you get in trouble for the exploding wine??

    • Nathan - As We Travel June 29, 2011 at 4:28 am #

      Hey Megan – yeah it was hard work, but worth it to get to Europe. hehe the boss wasn’t very happy the next morning when he found out :p