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Languedoc Vine Report #23 September 11th

The Languedoc vendange has begun. They started bringing in some of the whites last weekend. In the darkness of the early hours, the vineyards are alive with lights and noise. They’re harvesting at night as this is when sugar levels are most stable. Cool fruit means better control over the fermentation process.

Languedoc Domaine

this way to one of our favourite wines

One of our favourite Domaines always picks at night. Here’s a video from Domaine de La Baume whose Viognier regularly wins prizes.


La Baume was one of the first to pick the grapes entirely at night and to adopt and master micro-oxygenation to preserve the freshness and fruitiness for several years. Their oenologists have a unique approach to vine-growing, carefully managing the size and leaf surface area to maximise the beneficial effects of the Languedoc sun. Their wine-making process aims to reveal the aromas of the grapes with a minimum of intervention. The wines have the distinctive taste of the terroir that they handle with care.

We often take visitors to a wine tasting at La Baume. Nobody has ever been disappointed.

News from the devastated vineyards around Bordeaux

Some wine growers lost up to 80% of their harvest this year due to hailstorms.

Bordeaux vines

ravaged vines in Bordeaux

Enormous hail stones ripped the vines to shreds as you can see from the photo above.

According to Helen Tate of Cult Wines, the authorities have agreed a notion to allow Bordeaux wine producers to bend the rules a little and buy in bulk wines. They are supposed to source extra AOC wine from the same appellation.

Ah, but, I live in Languedoc where the wine is not of the same appellation. So why is it I have seen tankers with Bordeaux registration plates coming to our local Vignerons to fill up?

buying bulk from Languedoc

buying in bulk from Languedoc

You can make your own minds up about that one.

Weather has been changeable since last week’s report. On Saturday, the heavens opened. The sky looked like the end of days and rain lashed us for a good 12 hours. I went out afterwards to see how our Merlot was faring.

Languedoc Merlot


Now these vines look ready. We watched the forecasts and kept looking at the sky. In the distance, the peaks of the Pyrenees loomed like malevolent shadows.

Languedoc Pyrenees

distant shadows

Over the Montagnes Noir, more storm clouds were gathering.

Languedoc storm clouds

more rain on the way?



Fortunately, the storms passed us by. The sun came out again.

And then, this morning, lo and behold! They’re bringing in the reds! Yay! I dashed to the vigneron to see what was happening.

trailer weighing

getting the weight ticket

Each trailer is first weighed empty. The wine grower gets his ticket and drives to his vineyard to meet the harvesting machines.

When he returns with his loaded trailer, he is weighed again and his account credited.

The trailer backs up to the loading chutes. The tailgate opens and, voilà! The 2013 harvest has begun.

tipping the grapes

here they come!

Time to sort the good bits from the waste.

Soon, the village will have that yeasty smell in the air. I can’t wait!

Languedoc harvest

 Next week, I hope to have video clips of the harvesting machines in action in the vineyards.

See you then!


Languedoc Vine Report #20. August 14th

Here’s how good our Languedoc Merlot is looking this morning.

Compare the photograph of our Languedoc vine with last week. Yes, just one week between photos.

Merlot vine

August 14th turning colour

Languedoc Merlot

last week








One week of glorious Languedoc sunshine has brought about these welcome changes.

Humidity has been low; the sky purest cobalt. Temperatures have remained steady in the mid thirties with pleasant breezes. Paradise.

At dawn, I heard machinery and set off to see what was happening. The light was amazing – an artist’s dream.

Chardonnay vine

golden Chardonnay

The landscape was golden as syrup.

Dawn vines

Golden dawn light in the vines

The vineyards all looked as if they’d had melted butter poured all over them. My mouth was watering.

As I walked further into the vineyards, the sounds of machinery grew louder. What were they doing out at this time in the morning?

vine trimmer

tidying up the vines

Cutting back the extraneous growth helps keep the rows tidy and cuts down on the possibility of disease attack. First, they trim vertically, along the sides of the rows of vines.

vine trimmer

cutting blades set at vertical

The tractors and attachments are slim enough to travel between the rows. With the blades set in the vertical position, they trim each side of the rows of vines.

Languedoc vine trimming

trimming off unwanted growth

They move the cutting blades into horizontal position and trim the tops of the vines.

vine cutting

trimming the tops

The finished rows are neat and tidy. KInd of like good Languedoc housekeeping.

neat vines

typical rows of Languedoc vines

They look as inviting as a freshly made bed.

vine row close up

as neat as a freshly made up bed

As harvest time approaches, the growers will be testing and sampling sugar content in the grapes. Here’s a video explaining about sugar testing.

This video is from AlBeth vineyards in New York State. You can find them on Facebook. They haven’t posted anything on YouTube or Facebook for a long time. I hope that’s because they’ve been too busy.

Here in Languedoc, we’re expecting a late vendange (harvest).

immature vine

soaking up the sun

And, at this point, I’m taking a short break – a trip to the UK to visit family.

There won’t be a Languedoc Vine Report next week. But, I’ll be back in time to watch the harvest and afterwards take you to our local cooperative to show you what happens to the grapes when they arrive!

Cheerio for now.

vines at dawn

dawn sun in the vines

Back soon. Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA. I love to hear from you.




How hot is Dan Brown’s Inferno?



my hot copy

I picked up Dan Brown’s latest hot title at the airport on my way home. I’ve read all his best-sellers. I’d seen him interviewed on UK breakfast television while I was away and thought,

What a nice man.

He doesn’t come across all stuffed up with his own importance. In fact, he spoke with some humility about the way he values his UK fans even though his UK critics appear to be the most anti-DB.

Dan Brown

smiling all the way to the bank

He’s right about his UK critics. Having a go at Dan Brown novels is a national sport, it would seem. And it’s not just professional literary critics who like beating up on one of the most popular novelists ever.

On wannabe writers websites, where aspiring novelists review each other’s work, the name Dan Brown is bandied about as an example of how NOT to write. Stand-up comedians, for goodness sake, mock the man’s style. Samples of his syntax are held up for ridicule.

Yet his books SELL.

You’ve got to ask yourself why.

Who are the critics who slate him? Are they the same people he’s writing for?

No! Absolutely not. Dan Brown writes for the masses. He writes for people who love a good yarn. People who don’t analyze his opening paragraphs. Mr Brown doesn’t write literary fiction. He doesn’t write to please the critic in residence at the Daily Blab or the International Blah, Blah, Blah. So they give him a hard time. Read the following link from Sky News.

Dan Brown says he writes the kinds of stories he likes to read. It’s amazing that he’s still willing to give interviews. He doesn’t really need to, after all. The man must be rolling in it. He doesn’t need to court anybody. In interview, even when his TV host is acting as tormentor, Dan Brown comes across well in my opinion.

Maybe he comes across as a decent sort because that’s exactly what he is. Full stop. There’s no pretence about the man. I hope so.

So, let’s have a look at why Dan Brown is so vilified in certain quarters. In Inferno, he begins with his main character, Robert Langdon waking up from a nightmare. According to fiction editors around the planet, this is such a no-no, your agent would drop you there and then.

In literary agency Darley Anderson’s latest post there’s a piece about ways NOT to begin. Descriptions of the moon, dreams, traffic, weather, looking in a mirror are all such turn-offs, apparently, that your manuscript wouldn’t get past the reader. You wouldn’t even make it to the agent’s desk.

It’s not the only no-no Dan Brown gets away with. He pairs adjectives. Shock horror. Dan Brown writes things like incredibly dangerous and ornately carved. Blimey! Not adverbs too, you might gasp. Experts will tell you anybody who writes things like old, weathered gate isn’t trying hard enough to improve their skills.

But here”s the thing. Dan Brown’s Inferno hit #1 on the best-seller lists BEFORE it was available to buy.

Check out any best-seller list you care to name to see its position today.

That’s right. Dan Brown’s Inferno is right up there.

Anybody who begrudges him his popularity must be just plain jealous. There are elements of his style that grate a little with me, but it doesn’t stop me buying his books. I don’t particularly care an awful lot what happens to his characters; they never seem quite real to me, a bit like Indiana Jones and his Scots dad. But THE STORY. Oh, the story with its puzzles and misunderstandings and codes and surprises you knew were coming anyway – I LOVE Dan Brown’s stories.

Go Dan. Go Dan.

His work is so controversial amongst the literati their bewilderment only serves to stoke the fire. Now THAT’S clever. Get your enemies to fight your cause for you. Ouch! HOT!

Things that get me ranting . . .

Shampoo bottles. And conditioner bottles. Why don’t manufacturers stick to one method of letting you know which is which when you’re in the shower without your reading glasses? Because, I don’t know anybody who needs reading glasses who actually wears them in the shower. What would be the point? They’d get all steamed up. So, there you are, in the shower, naked and helpless as . . . and you reach out for the bottle you need and YOU CAN’T TELL WHICH IS WHICH!


how can you tell?

Some brands have the shampoo bottle sitting on its bottom and the corresponding bottle of conditioner sitting on its top, with the labels stuck on the other way around, if you see what I mean. But they don’t all do it like this. So, if you’re like me and you regularly change brands depending on what’s on special offer down the haircare aisle and because the magazines tell you NOT to use the same brand all the time or you’ll get BUILD-UP whatever that is, and because you regularly use more conditioner than shampoo anyway, you’ll end up with a motley collection of bottles with bits of something inside them. BUT YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS. Not if you’re in the shower without your reading glasses!