All about the wine

As a qualified winemaker, French backpacker Victor Voarick sought out the Australian wine industry as a focus for his working holiday.  But when the coronavirus hit Victor had a difficult decision to make – to go home early or remain in Australia.

There’s wine…and there’s wine

There are lots of different reasons young people come to Australia for extended working holidays – the sandy beaches, the unusual animals, and the casual lifestyle to name a few.  They are all drawcards for most backpackers, but for Victor Voarick it was all about the wine.

However a cheap cask wine, the friend of the budget conscious backpacker, was never on Victor’s radar.  Being a qualified winemaker in his native France, expanding his knowledge of the wine industry outside of his home region of Burgundy was a high priority to further his career.  However, being barely into his 20’s when he left meant that the opportunity to earn a bit of money, along with the tourism experience, was always going to be part of the picture. 

From California to the Yarra Valley

The USA beckoned first, with the experience of a winegrape harvest in California starting the foreign learning curve for Victor.  He then flew across the Pacific in time for a Southern Hemisphere vintage in the Yarra Valley.

When asked  about the differences between winemaking in Burgundy, the USA, and Australia, Victor commented that a lot of Californians and Australians have visited France to learn winemaking, so the techniques are quite similar.

“The biggest difference between Australian winemaking and at home is the very large quantity of grapes we had to work with. “

With a cheeky smile Victor confidently claimed that the quality of French wine was better, however he did concede he had a soft spot for the De Bortoli Estate Pinot Noir.

The most liveable city in the world

Spending time in Melbourne has been the highlight of Victor’s trip to Australia so far.  He put his winemaking experience to good use working as a sommelier in a bar, and describes the food, the culture and the vibe of the city as being  fantastic.  While there, he lived in a share house with other backpackers, and really enjoyed relating to other young international travellers, sharing experiences, and telling stories.

Finding work

With the intention of staying more than twelve months, Victor had no problem finding the work he needed to qualify for his second year visa.  He was very proactive and found that calling wineries directly was a good way to pick up work, not just in the winery itself, but also as a labourer in the vineyards. 

The Harvest Trail website and Facebook were also very helpful.  Picking pumpkins at one stage and then becoming involved in an almond harvest provided a bit of a variation to vineyards.  

Victor recognises that farm work is quite physically hard, but it did not surprise him as he has experienced similar conditions before coming here.  He considers the working conditions at all his Australian jobs have been good.  However, like most other backpackers, he prefers hourly paid employment to piecework.  For the first couple of weeks picking apples at Shepparton he only earned around $10 per hour, but was philosophical about it. 

“I understand that I do not earn much because I am slow, but there are some Asian workers at the farm who are making a lot of money because they are very fast.”

COVID-19 demands a huge decision

When the coronavirus became an issue of concern, some of his backpacker friends returned home and initially Victor was uncertain about what to do.  He had a discussion with his father back in France,  who gave him advice which he inevitably took.

“My father told me to stay in Australia because it was safer here than in France.  He told me quite clearly not to go back.”

Victor speaks with his brother and sister at home regularly and remains concerned for them.  Fortunately, it has turned out that, with the difficult situation in France and several other European countries, his father’s advice has been very sound.

Family and duty eventually calls

Currently Victor is finding that the virus situation has made it more difficult to catch up with other backpackers, and finding work at the moment is a bit harder.  Staying a third year is not on the radar however and he intends to return home once his second year is completed.

“My dad is getting older and needs my help at home, and by then I will have been away enough.”

Overall, Victor has enjoyed his experience in Australia and his expectations have been met.  His advice for other young people considering a working holiday is to come to Australia with an open-mind.