So, it has been sheer delight for me this year, partly because I wasn’t sure I would be here to see la vendange 2013, and partly because it has been so fascinating.
|Our vines, earlier in the year|
The first thing to say is that it has been late this year. Friends tell me that due to the long cold and damp spring, the grapes have been at least a couple of weeks behind this year. From my limited experience, I would say this is about right. Our figs have been 2-3 weeks behind where they were last year, and the olives seem even further behind.
|Our vines......one of the 3 that produced some fabulous grapes|
We have a few vines ( about 25 ) on our land in Caunes. If all our vines produced as many grapes as the 3 on the right hand side of our little vineyard, we would be swamped. A few weeks ago, I was aware that some of our grapes were shrivelling up on the vine, some had certainly gone mouldy.....but some were spectacular. Suddenly, they enlarged, turned from pale green to a fabulous purple colour, and started to smell beautiful. I was worried about attracting les sangliers ( wild boars) onto our land from the forest land immediately behind our house, so I picked the ripe grapes and made them into some very good grape jelly, and picked the mouldy/ shrivelling ones, and gave them to the very grateful compost heap. I should add that les sangliers arrived anyway, and caused damage to the vegetable patch, foolishly placed (by me) right next to the vines.
|some of the harvest from our vines|
|I made half a dozen jars of grape jelly right at the end of August|
Within 3 or 4 weeks of my own grape harvest each drive through the Minervois countryside began to be hampered by the traffic involved with la vendange. The huge grape harvesting machines became a familiar sight, and following tractors, pulling large open wagons, piled high with grapes became a way of life.
|The Caunes co-op, where the grapes are stripped from their stalks.|
|The discarded stalks from the grapes.....used for fuel in some places apparently.|
Signs at the side of the roads urged motorists to have patience due to la vendange, and the spilt and split grapes on the roadway made tyres squeak, and made the air smell of rich dark fruity wine. Mark thought something was wrong with his new bike, when he heard a sort of squelchy sound......it was the tyres making their way through grape juice. The bike smelled decidedly alcoholic when Mark came home. ( please note...it was definitely the bike...not Mark ).I should have been thinking about blogging when all this was going on....but for some reason I wasn’t. I wish I had taken more photos of the actual harvesting. It was taking place all around us.
|A walk through some vineyards near Caunes|
By the time we left the Minervois, for our winter trip back to England, the grapes were “in”, the Co-ops were closing their doors, and the vines had started to change colour. It was almost as if, the leaves knew that once the grapes were picked, they weren’t needed anymore. They no longer needed to provide shelter for those beautiful swelling voluptuous luxurious berries.
|The grapes have gone....and the leaves seem to know.|
Within days, the leaves started to curl and crisp, to redden and yellow. Vineyards which days beforehand had been lush green with huge bunches of purple hanging jewels, were swathed in reds and oranges, yellows and browns.
|Just a few grapes missed by the harvester.|
It was beautiful and mellow and gentle.
After the furious activity of the work involved in gathering the crop, the countryside was quiet again. The activity was now taking place in les caves, in the Co-ops, in les chateaux, les domaines and the little garagista’s wine making premises.
I have no idea whether the 2013 Minervois wine will be good or not, but I am so pleased to have been able to observe some of the activity that has been involved in creating it. I look forward to sampling some of it !
|Jess, sampling an earlier vintage.|