We had a visit from our mayor. You remember him – he’s always out and about in our village attending all the festivities etc.
We’d had cause to ask him to intervene on a dispute with a neighbour who was burning foul stuff every Sunday morning in his barbecue.
I’m not talking chickens here. The smoke spiralling from the chimney on his barbecue was thick and black and toxic. I took photos for proof and after we’d complained to the neighbour, we took the photos to the Mairie as evidence of our grievance.
The French do like to get behind a good grievance.
At seven o’clock every Sunday morning, smoke like this stuff constitutes a good grievance, so off we went to complain.
By the way, we have an ally in reception at the mayor’s office. She lives at the corner of our cul-de-sac and was able to verify that she too had experienced the choking black smoke.
The mayor sorted the problem and the toxic black smoke ceased.
Then, some days later the mayor showed up at our gate. We thought he’d come to check everything was okay. No, he had come with a complaint from a neighbour about our hedge being too high.
Aha! we thought. This is a tit-for-tat issue, suggested this was the case and led the mayor around our property to show that there really wasn’t a problem with the hedge.
It turned out, he’d made a mistake. It was a different neighbour about a different hedge, but because the address was so close to our smoke complaint the mayor had made the same ‘tit-for-tat’ assumption as we had. He came back to apologise for his error. I made coffee, we sat for a Franglais chat and that was when we learned the harvest is 15 days late.
The cold weather I reported throughout spring has indeed led to a much later grape harvest than is usual. It’s much worse in other areas in France. In the Bordeaux region, they’ve had hail as Cult Wines reports. Hailstones big as ping pong balls. Ouch! And similar problems in the Champagne region. So, I guess, we’re lucky to be only late rather than damaged. According to Monsieur le Maire, some reds may be as late as October.
I set off on my rounds as usual to see what I could find.
What’s happening this week
My next door neighbour is growing grapes over his car port.
Netting keeps the birds off. It looks as if he has a good crop for the table this year.
In the vineyards, even though everybody is playing a waiting game as far as the grapes are concerned, there are still jobs to do.
Hedges grow rapidly in Languedoc sunshine. This winegrower is busy trimming back wild Cotinus trees that flower with pink, smoke-like tendrils in spring. These ones, however, are right at the point where the harvesters need to turn round into the next row. It’s another example of good Languedoc housekeeping.
Further up the hill, another winegrower is clearing out between the rows.
Cuttings and weeds are going into the container. He’s also smoothing ruts in the soil to prepare the way for the grape harvesting machines.
At the cooperative Vigneron, they’re running the machinery and making checks.
Here is where the grapes will arrive for our lovely Fleurs de Montblanc and the new range Les Larmes d’Alexandria.
I’ll be there to film as the grapes are dropped into the chutes.
Today, they were busy checking to see everything is turning as it should.
They were running the belts.
Nothing is wasted. They collect unwanted grape skins for making compost.
This morning, they were also testing the lifting screws.
The Archimedes type screw lifts the grapes up out of the chute. Once everything gets going, the village hums. No, literally. It hums. The wine machinery hums until you get so used to hearing it, you can’t hear it any more.
Along the lanes, it’s beginning to look like autumn.
Dried grasses and early morning mistiness add to the end-of-summer atmosphere. Snails cling to what’s left of their grazing grounds.
Yet when you look closely into the vines, there’s obviously some way to go before they’re ready. In amongst all the dark reds and purples, there are green youngsters, nowhere near mature enough for harvesting.
Back home along the lanes, I’ve spotted blackberries and other autumn fruits.
It’s a wonderful time of year for grandmas to take little ones out into the countryside to see what they can find.
I saw this charming couple and couldn’t resist snatching a photograph. Together, I think these two are an artist’s dream subject. I love the way the light catches them as they crouch to look at something on the path.
That’s all for this week’s Languedoc Vine Report. See you next week.