Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Vendage

Now it's the end of summer and we've had really nothing to do to the vines for a couple of months. The grapes just get bigger and turn from yellow to green to purple to a smokey blue. Come the end of September and we're wondering what we have to do for picking, so I call the winery and they say I'll need to bring an “echantillon” - a sample of 200 grapes (or anything between 193 and 202 he says, with Gallic humour) for testing. An acid level of less than 9 and alcohol greater than 11% is what is required. Great news! The Merlot is 4.5 acid and 13% alcohol, and we should pick it straight away. But the farmer who agreed to pick the grapes says he can't get his machine in to pick just 8 rows of Merlot (Merlot is earlier than Cabernet Savignon this year) so can we pick by hand? OK, we round up our English neighbours, Mary and my sister Jeanette and husband, who are all staying with us and off we go with secateurs and buckets. Eight rows doesn't sound a lot, but it takes eight of us four hours. A rhythm develops in the warm sunshine, with couples attacking either side of a row, and Mary emtying buckets into the trailer. Some blood, as Julie snips Pete's finger instead of a grape stem, several rest breaks and a hearty cheer as collectively we empty the last bucket. Even the farmer is surprised by our progress, arriving at two to pick up the grapes, but obviously expecting to have to help with the picking. He takes away the trailer and reports back next day that we have produced 640 kilos! Now it's the first week of October, we've taken samples of the Cabernet (5.4 and 13.1 – still good) and on Tuesday we hope the farmer will be back with the monster machine, and all we'll have to do is take some photos and pay him loads of euros...


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