Languedoc Vine Report# 24. September 18th

Last week I reported the Languedoc grape harvest was under way. The vendange has continued with picking at night. By first light, most growers were taking the last load of the day to the cooperative.

On one of my early morning outings, I found a local grower with an older harvesting machine, bringing in the last of his Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was up. I guessed he had a later slot at the weighing station. The driver was well prepared for hot Languedoc sun. His borrowed parasol made me smile.

Languedoc Sauvignon Blanc

with a parasol!

Here he is getting ready to turn into the next row. Cute, huh? I mean the parasol. Then he offloads into the waiting trailer.

So, we had a few days of business in the vineyards, the noise of the harvesting machines waking me at silly o’clock and then . . . nothing. It all went very quiet.

Languedoc vineyards

not a harvesting machine in sight.

Silence in the Languedoc vineyards

What was happening? I spoke to people in the know.

Yes, they said, it’s back to the waiting game. The reds are still not ready.

But what about the ones I saw going into the cooperative last week?

Probably Pinot Noir. Not a lot of it grown in Languedoc, but nothing else is ready to pick.

Here’s proof. Here’s our Mademoiselle Merlot. If they don’t pick her soon, won’t she turn into an old maid?

Languedoc Merlot

lady in waiting

So, we wait. And the cooperative stands idle. And the vineyards are quiet again.

Meanwhile, in Montpellier, scientists headquartered at INRA have been examining cells in grapes in attempts to discover where tannins come from.

The source is the tannosome, a previously undiscovered organism that is found in most plants. Up until now, no one knew exactly where tannins are made. Scientists could view them under a microscope stored in plant cells, but couldn’t work out how they got there.

However, techniques were employed to re-examine the cells, discovering that the organelles (smaller bodies within the cells) are the source of tannins.
One of the researchers, Geneviève Conéjéro, said that tannins “give a feeling of pungency in the mouth, the feel of a cat’s tongue licking your hand.”

So, now we know. Next time you get that cat’s tongue feeling, you can impress your friends and say,

Ah, that’s the tannosome effect.

Well, all that’s very interesting, but what can you do when you’re writing a Languedoc Vine Report and there’s no harvesting to film?

You can harvest something yourself.

Languedoc figs

what’s himself got his eye on?

There’s something interesting in that hedgerow.

And we’ve got shopping bags in the back of the car.


Himself investigates.

Figs grow wild

figs growing wild

Aha! says he. There’s probably enough here to make something with.

I’ve never made fig jam before, but it can’t be that difficult can it?

He set to work. It helps being over 6ft tall when it comes to tasks like this.

fig harvesting

filling up a crate

They take some finding, these little free beauties. They hide under the leaves and it’s not until you get right in there you can see where they are.

figs hiding

ripe figs

The boy done good. There’s enough here to make a good few pots of jam.

Languedoc figs

how many jars of jam?

I looked online for a recipe. The figs went in the pot.

figs in the jam pot

smelling good already

Add sugar and lemon juice. How easy is that?

A nice loaf of Alien Bread fresh from the machine and – breakfast is ready!

Alien bread and fig jam


Join me next week for more news on the late Languedoc grape harvest 2013.

And please write me if there’s something you’d like to know. I’ll do my best to get an answer for you.





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