Les Vendanges – La Rentree
It only seems like yesterday that Lilas broke up from school and started the Summer holidays at the beginning of July.
And then before I knew it, we’d been on the Naked tour, my family had come and gone, the Olympics and Paralympics ended with a bang, the Fetes de Villages had packed up for the year, our Summer friends had all been and gone…
…and suddenly the grapes got ripe for the picking! (‘Les Vendanges’):
– and the new school year (‘La Rentree’) 2012-2013 started.
Come September, a different kind of ambience sets in around here. The tourists (or most of them!) have left en masse, the weather softens and jumpers come out for nights on the terrace, the markets no longer have ‘bouchons’ (traffic jams):
…the local pools have shut their gates:
– and tanned bodies (just not ours) post ‘les vacances’:
…get ready for some WORK!
Les Vendanges is one of the most important events on our local calendar (most people in our village own or have some family connection/ investment in grape vines) – and each year, come September, there is the most wonderful buzz in the air. The village hums with expectation and excitement over the ‘recolte’ (harvest) – it’s time to pick the ‘fruits’ of a long year’s labour.
And harvest always coincides with the kiddies going back to school after two months’ of holidays. I still can’t quite get my head around this school ‘year’ here. In Australia our school ‘year’ begins around the beginning of the calendar year, in February – after Xmas and at the end of Summer. Here, each school year ends in what I would call the middle of the year, July, and then recommences in September. And because of this schoolbooks, labels etc name the school ‘year’ as ‘2000-2001’ etc. This year for example, is ‘2012-2013’. I know I’m rambling. Maybe it’s because I’m from ‘down there’ that I’m confused.
Anyway, back to the grapes. The reds are just getting under way, but Benji has been picking for a couple weeks’ now as the whites here ripened earlier. As for how this year’s harvest will be? It’s looking good so far – relief! The weather has been almost perfect for the grapes these last few weeks – a lot of sun and no rain – and so it all needs to come in NOW!
It will be the biggest week yet – 4am starts, working through until 6pm, 7/7. Another couple of weeks of this, then it’s finished for the pickers and machine harvesters in the vines, but full-steam ahead in the wine cellar – managing the tanks and their juice. Benji will maintain this crazy routine for a few more weeks yet – until the end of October. And then it will be time to think about HIS holiday!…
the grapes are GO on Boulevard Napoleon
Well that’s it for picking this year. All the grapes are in, busy fermenting, creating heat in the tanks and Benji can breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve had good amounts of sunshine and wind, no hail, no rot – now it’s time to leave the grapes to do their stuff in the winery and see what sort of juices evolve.
These photos show the last of the grapes from the harvest – the Grenache – coming in. We hung around for a couple of hours to see the action. It might sound nerdy, just hanging around and watching grapes go into a machine for processing, but really, it was quite exciting! Really! There’s something about the odour, the colours, the satisfaction on the faces of the grape growers seeing their fruit finally picked and about to perform their transformation.
As I’ve already said, the harvest is a wonderful time to witness. And it was just great taking in the blokes’ excitement in the cellar.
The grapes were carefully emptied from their ‘caisses’ (box/basket) one by one into the de-stemmer/crusher (yes, it does what it says, plucks the berries from their stems and sorts away the leaves) which then drops the glistening little purple ‘beads’ (they look like jewellery) onto the sorting tray. They are dropped down into another tray, with a huge turning ‘screw’ and then pumped up through the red hose, straight into the tank. Some of the grapes were collected into buckets and emptied directly into wine barrels (second-hand, so not full-blown wood influences on the juice). A small experiment to develop different flavours.
If the wine is as delicious as the berries tasted, everyone will be happy!…
Allez, les jolis tracteurs!
They’re off and running!
Everywhere you look in our village there are all sorts of machines and tractors bringing the grapes in. The weather’s holding up and La Liviniere is in a flurry of activity.
While La Liviniere’s reputation as a quality wine producer is still on the ascent, the region isn’t new to wine production by any means – the Romans planted vines here over two thousand years ago. The original name of the village was ‘Cella Vinaria’, indicationg wine in its title, becoming ‘Livineira’ in 1069 and then ‘La Liviniere’ in 1688.
In 1999 the area was awarded as an ‘A.O.C’ title (appellation origine controlee) – A.O.C. Minervois-La Liviniere. The main varieties of grapes cultivated here are Syrah, Mourvèdre et Grenache (representing about 60%) and you also find wines comprised of Carignan (I love this variety!), Cinsault (Benji’s rose made of this is delicious), Terret, Piquepoul et Aspiran.
On ya va!! let’s go…
allo allo – an update from the vines #2
It looks like the weather has very much picked up: it’s sunny and blue-skied with cool, northerly winds to help dry out the vines. The nights are fresh and the days warm and it’s forecast to stay like this for the week (we have the ‘meteo’ info on the computer here, updating 24/7!) which makes for a happy vigneron in the house.
This morning was particularly beautiful and there was a wonderful hum in our area today – of expectation, new starts and industry. The sky was clear, children all went back to school and many of the grape growers were beginnng their harvest.
I can’t begin to tell you how much the atmosphere changes around here once people begin to pick their grapes. A whole year’s work and energies culminate in this event and the villages are charged with excitement.
As for any farmer about to harvest, the weather reports are extremely important at this time of year. Any dodgy behaviour – hail, rain, extreme heat – can disturb or destroy the whole year’s work. Stressful times indeed, until all those babies are in, safe in their presses or tanks.
I’ve often pondered this while picking grapes (and how much time you have to ponder!) as looks of stress etched themselves on Benji and his vineyard managers’ faces as the skies filled with ominous storm clouds. But for me, these ideas of vulnerability for the poor grapes were quickly erased by the more exciting idea of ditching secateurs and having the rest of the day off. Maybe even the next day off too! Outrageously WRONG!!!
It wasn’t until I was following a small tractor today, loaded with white grapes, that I fully understood the joy for the growers finally taking their kiddies to their cellars.
Bring on the harvest!