Danger in the Vineyards!

30th August 2016


On 23rd August a wine grower was crushed to death by his straddle tractor when it overturned in Ludes. This wasn’t the first fatality this year in what’s considered a very hazardous job.

If you’ve visited the Champagne vineyards you’ll have seen these distinctive tractors everywhere. In just a few weeks they’ll be transporting the grapes from the vineyards to the pressing centres. It’s reckoned that a wine grower spends 40 hours with his tractor on each hectare of vines.

The most evident cause of overturning is the steep slopes they have to work on. If it’s too dry the top soil will be like sand and very slippery. From May to July this year wine growers had to drive their tractors in mud which also makes ideal conditions for this type of accident.

Overturning has also been caused by mechanical problems such as the breaks failing. There’s no link though with the age of the tractor. They are also a minor factor in the cause of such accidents.

There have been about 20 of them so far this year. If experts could know all the causes then there wouldn’t be any accidents but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Drivers who survive are important witnesses, but often with the shock of the accident they suffer memory loss. Onlookers are rare as the drivers are working alone in the vineyards.

Wine growers like car drivers have to be very vigilant when they use their tractors. Let’s hope the local papers of the Aube and the Marne don’t have any more serious accidents to report in what will be a busy month for wine growers.

Jon Catt

Tour guide for the Champagne region who lives in Troyes. Specialising in family run Champagne house visits in the Aube and the Marne plus wine tours in the Yonne and Côte d'Or.