Tag Archives: Languedoc

Wednesday Vine Report Languedoc January 2015

The Vine Report is back.

Serignan tornado damage

picture from local press of tornado damage

Regular readers of my Vine Reports will know I’ve been out of commission throughout 2014 since I was knocked down by a car. I’m walking better now and eager to get out there with my camera. I may not make the vine report every week but I should be able to manage at least one a month. Bear with!

A new year of vine reports begins.

Autumn rainstorms saw widespread flooding and a mini tornado in Serignan causing several fatalities. In Lamalou flash floods dashed cars against the famous arches at the entrance to town. They’re still clearing up.

Lamalou floods2014

picture from Getty images of Lamalou flood 2014

Im Montpellier the beautiful boulevards flooded and throughout the department of Hérault there was damage and destruction. It seemed the rain would never end.

Himself and I are lucky to live in a protected position but many of our neighbours had to pump out their cellars.

Montpellier floods 2014

flooded avenue in Montpellier

Vineyards were inundated as the earth became waterlogged. Many areas were completely inaccessible as water poured from the fields onto the lanes. Villages were completely cut off.

vine flooded

vines flooded and roads blocked

Winter arrived and brought with it clear skies and temperatures you’d be glad of on an English summer day. We’ve recorded 23 degrees in the shade recently on our terrace. The vineyards dried quickly.

Pruning is in progress

Wine growers are making the most of this temporary warm spell.  We all know the winter winds have yet to arrive – the ones that stab you in the back and make your eyes water. We need the cold spells. The vines need them. Too prolonged an unseasonal warm spell and there’s a danger the vines will wake from their winter rest. We don’t want the sap rising too soon. We want the vines’ energy kept in the roots. These sugars act as a kind of antifreeze against winter chills. We very rarely get prolonged extreme cold. Winters are short-lived here in our coastal hinterland vineyards.

So, how are the vines looking this week? I took a short walk to find out.

Vines January 2015

Mademoiselle Merlot’s vineyard

Remember Mademoiselle Merlot? Here she is with her companions resting under winter sun. Next door the vines are already pruned.

Vines January2015-2

all neat and tidy

It’s hard to believe these gnarled old sticks will produce my favourite Languedoc rubies.

Winter housekeeping gets vines ready for their new season’s growth and freshens up their sleeping quarters.

VinesJanuary2015-3

this is the way we want you to grow!

I enjoyed my brief venture into the vineyards. But I mustn’t overdo it. Little by little is the way forward. If these old girls can keep on coming back – so can I!

I’ll leave you with a picture of the vineyard nearest my home and one of the way we celebrated our new year here in Languedoc.

VinesJanuary2015-4

hillside vines

fish and chips

fish and chips from the van

A taste of Blighty! With lots of vinegar.

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Cheers!

TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller

Publication of TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller goes ahead. Here’s the front and back cover.

Trobairitz the Storyteller

publication November 28th 2014

What does the cover of TROBAIRITZ tell you?

First, I want it to have  warmth. A satisfying, bread and butter sort of comfort. A cover that does something to your senses, even makes your mouth water.

A cover that says it’s not quite in the world you know. An imaginary world. Almost dreamlike.

I hope it makes you ask yourself questions.

Why is it a picture of a village?

Where is it? Does it look like England? No.

Why are there no people in the design?

What does the word Trobairitz mean?

( I wrote a post on who the Trobairitz were. Here is a link to that post. You can go to the Categories section on the right sidebar and in the drop down box choose Trobairitz for all my posts on this subject.)

So, the Trobairitz were female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries. What has that got to do with my new novel set in present day Languedoc?

Bringing the past into the present

Trobairitz were bringers of news and storytellers. They sang, too, to their own accompaniment and their themes were often about current affairs and romantic love as well as traditions and the place of women within values and attitudes of the times.

My 21st century Trobairitz is a truck driver. At an overnight truck stop in the heart of Languedoc, Weed tells a story. The themes of tradition and women and relationships are woven into the tale she tells but in her real life those are the very things that cause her problems.

The fact that Weed’s story is set in a circulade is also relevant. A circulade is built in the shape of a snail shell. Curving rows of houses surround and protect the church on top of the hill. They’re designed to confuse raiders. Even today it’s possible to lose one’s way in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.

In TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories Weed tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into narrow passageways, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I decided to lighten the appearance of the cover for this first of the TROBAIRITZ trilogy. The original was too dark and didn’t give the right feel. You’ll see there’s still a bit of darkness hovering in the background and, as in real life, there will be episodes of darker happenings as Weed’s story progresses.

I deliberately chose not to have people and/or faces in the design. When I’m reading I like to make up my own images of what the characters look like. I especially don’t like those front covers showing ladies clad in silks and satins etc. which bear no resemblance to the actual story. You might want to read a previous post about book covers.

Why did I make Weed a truck driver?

Our resident teenage online gamer, aka Gollum Boy gave me the idea. We were eating dinner one night and I said,

‘What kind of a job would a woman have where she travelled about to different places all the time?’

‘That’s easy,’ he said. ‘She drives a truck.’

Volvo truck

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I love trucks. I think they’re the sexiest vehicles on the road. GB’s suggestion was perfect for the character I had in mind: a feisty lady who knows how to handle working in a man’s world, a woman who enjoys men’s company but has issues with commitment.

Why does she have issues with commitment? And why is she called Weed?

Ah. TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller – book one of the trilogy is available next Friday 28th November. Just in time for Christmas stockings!

Mademoiselle Merlot 2014 Wednesday Vine Report

Mademoiselle Merlot is on her way to the Vigneron this morning. Harvesting of the reds began a week or so ago and today’s the day for the Merlot vine we watched all through last year.

Merlot harvest 2014

Merlot vineyard behind our house

Our village is full of the sounds of grape harvesting.

Machinery rumbles through the vineyards. There’s the whining of gears and belts. Tractors bump along streets where there’s a slick of grape juice, blackened now and sticky and hot with wasps. From the cooperative vigneron a humming sound adds to the harvest symphony.

Merlot grape picking 2014

grape harvester straddling the rows of Merlot grapes

The air smells yeasty. It’s the smell of the earth and grapes and fermenting. It makes your mouth water.

We’re lucky here in our corner of Hérault. Further inland, toward Carcassonnne massive hailstones in July decimated vineyards. ( To see how big these hailstones can be just click on the link in green.)

In some places more than 80% of wine growers’ crops were destroyed. Hailstones smash young grapevines to pieces.

destroyed grapes

livelihoods can be destroyed

Fortunately, our Mademoiselle Merlot has made it through safely

and we can look forward to winter warmers to accompany our beef stews.

Here’s what’s also happening today on our street.

Logs 2014

more winter warmers

Can’t do without log fires through the winter. Ah, a comfy chair, a good book and a glass of Merlot. Lovely. Here’s himself getting started on building a new pile near the house.

Logs20142

getting ready for winter

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Languedoc Vine Report. Wednesday 26th March 2014

A great year ahead?

This week’s Wednesday Vine Report is full of surprises. When you see my photographs you won’t believe the difference when compared with last year.

I hope to bring you regular reports as before. Since I was hit by a car in December, I have developed a painful condition which I won’t bore you with here. Suffice it to say sometimes I won’t be able to get out into the vineyards.

Watching for first signs

Remember how last year I eagerly waited for first signs of growth on the vines?

Vine Report 2013

how it looked last year

Dry sticks was all we had to look at last year at this time. I was looking to choose a particular vine so that I could follow its progress throughout the year. Mademoiselle Merlot became the choice and I’ve grown rather attached to her. Silly, I know, but I don’t want to be unfaithful. She’s going to feature in this year’s vine reports too.

Here’s the Merlot field this week after the mildest winter weather I’ve experienced since moving to France.

Vine Report 2014

not pruned yet but already sprouting

Today we have welcome light rain. There hasn’t been much of it. Growers depend on the fourteen days of downpour we can normally expect spread throughout late March and April. It hasn’t happened yet. In my last Vine Report, I showed how the grower of the Chardonnay vines has recently installed a watering system

So here are those Chardonnay vines.

Vine Report March 2014

going crazy!!

This photograph was taken on March 20th after a neighbour had told me I had better get up there and have a look. She knew I’d been looking out for first signs of growth again this year and I think she was rather pleased with herself that she’d beaten me to it. However, judging by this amount of growth, we’d both missed the first sprouting by at least two weeks.

Is this year’s harvest already a whole month ahead of last year?

Maybe it’s too soon to say. Maybe we wouldn’t want to tempt fate by saying so. (Languedoc is full of superstitions)

But it looks that way to me. There’s very little danger of late frosts in this part of France. Besides, now that the rain has begun I think we’ll move right along into an early summer.

So, come along ladies. Do your stuff.

Languedoc Vines 2014

lovely ladies!

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Till next time,

Cheers!

 

.

 

Languedoc Vine Report. March 13th

The Languedoc Vine Report began last year on April 3rd. Here’s the first photo I posted. It shows the vineyards near my home where I selected the one particular vine I photographed throughout the year.

Languedoc wine village

vineyards near my home

Mademoiselle Merlot turned out very nicely. We followed her growth right up to harvest and very tasty she is too.

This year spring arrived so early here in Languedoc we’ve all been taken by surprise.

We had a short cold spell before Christmas and it’s been mild ever since.

Languedoc spring

blue skies and pruned vines

Work is well under way in the vineyards across the village.

irrigation for vines

new irrigation system in the Chardonnay vineyard

The other vineyard we followed closely last year was the Chardonnay field. The other day, I saw this new irrigation channel being dug all around.

Do the growers know something we don’t?

Is this summer going to be one of those where we hit 40 degrees plus?

We’ve been very dry already through this early part of the year. Normally, as the weather warms, we go through what I call the transition period between cold and warm weather where we get a lot of rain. That hasn’t happened. We’ve gone straight into warm. We’re all wondering when the rain is going to come.

Languedoc vineyard

watering system

When I went back a few days later, the trough was filled in and the watering system already in place. Elsewhere in the vines, spring weather makes for pleasant work. I’m going to keep my eye on this newly ploughed area to see what is planted.

Languedoc new vineyard

I wonder what’s going in here?

In another area they are replacing the wire supports.

Rolls of wire are trucked into the vineyards; those cute little tractors ferry the materials to where they’re needed. The guy in the cab has his coat on, but the temperature reached 25 degrees in the shade that day. I know because we had our lunch outdoors on our little terrace.

Languedoc terrace in March

lunch outdoors in March

In the sun, of course, the temperature goes off the scale. Here’s what we recorded.

40degrees

fantastic for early March

 

 

 

Languedoc vineyard

cute tractor, huh?

new wires for Languedoc vines

gotta keep your vines supported.

As a rule, this post goes out on Wednesdays. It’s the Wednesday Vine Report. Regular readers will be aware I was knocked down by a car in December and I’m still recovering from injuries I sustained. So, the report is late. It won’t be every week until I’m better able to handle my camera.

Thank you for your kind messages on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m still hanging in there!

Even though the physiotherapy is agony!!!

At least, I can still lift a glass with my good arm.

Languedoc aperitif

Noilly Pratt made in Languedoc

Cheers!

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Languedoc in February

February is the month we bought our home in Languedoc. I had arrived to finalise the purchase wearing boots and thick woollens and needed to peel off layers of clothing in the Languedoc winter sunshine. I admit to feeling smug. We thought winters were always going to be warm and sunny. What a fantastic life in the sun. Each February since then has brought frost and even a bit of snow.

Languedoc snow in February

just to prove we can get snow in the south of France

EDF always save Red Days for February so they can make the most profits out of us as we snuggle up by the log fire. Red Days, you remember are when electricity costs nearly ten times as much as Blue Days.

This year we were prepared for another February cold snap. We had logs up to the eaves. We had gas bottles aplenty. We had a freezer full of ready-prepared meals to save on cooking.

And then the sun came out . . .

And so did the flowers . . .

Languedoc Magnolia in February 2014

what a sight!

February 2014 has been the kind of south of France winter everybody dreams of.

Mimosa is earlier than ever.

February Mimosa

Roquebrun in February

Japonica is in blossom everywhere.

Languedoc Japonica

It makes a stunning contrast with the yellow Mimosa.

One week after the Roquebrun Mimosa festival, we went back to walk by the river without my having to worry about hordes of people banging into my painful arm.

At the restaurant Le Petit Nice we had dish of the day. We make a rule to have dish of the day whatever it is. That way you try things you might not normally choose. So, we had sanglier, wild pig, and very nice it was too marinaded in garlic and thyme and bay. We sat outside on the terrace overlooking the River Orb.

February Languedoc lunch

view from Le petit Nice

After lunch, a walk by the river and look what we found –

 

Roquebrun oranges

ready to eat

The mineral rich soil in Roquebrun benefits from the village’s unique position and stays warm. In potager gardens along the river lettuces are growing abundantly in the shelter of the rocky mountains.

Languedoc February mountains

keeping out the winter

I simply love this place!

We found a spot where the river was still; the reflections were superb. You can barely discern where the reflection begins.

Orb reflections

 I think the best time to see reflections like this is before the trees are in full leaf.

But look at this! Last year I posted on March 14th about the early blossom. It’s earlier still this year. Here are the same trees –

Languedoc blossomYes, Languedoc is a good place to be in February.

Mimosa Festival at Roquebrun.

Roquebrun Mimosa

spring in Languedoc

 

Roquebrun holds the Mimosa festival each year on the second Sunday in February. This year the weather was perfect and the crowds turned out for a day in Hérault’s spectacular winter sunshine.

Roquebrun Mimosa

sweet scented Mimosa

The mountain village of Roquebrun enjoys its own unique climate. Sheltered from the worst of winter winds, the village nestles in a picturesque valley by the river Orb and is a tourist attraction for walkers, picnickers and canoeists all year round.

Mimosa flowers in February when the air is filled with its sweet perfume. At the Mimosa festival, you can buy a bunch to take home, but don’t leave before you’ve tasted the local wines or visited the Mediterranean garden centre which clings to the rock face above the village.

Roquebrun

February in Roquebrun

In the afternoon, the parade of decorated floats takes place and children in fancy dress take part in the following procession. People with broken arms (yours truly) are advised to keep away from the crush and let someone else take the photographs.

mimosa festival

competition for best decorated float is wicked!

Himself handles a camera very well from time to time, but I find I need to be specific about the kind of photographs I like to use in my website posts. As soon as my back is turned, he finds something he likes better and i’m sure to find pictures of his favourite things when I look through.

Like this one.

 

Harley at the Mimosa festival

on himself’s wish list

Bikers love the twisting climbs through Hérault’s river gorges. I get just as much of a thrill standing still and looking at it!

mountain road

stunning scenery

Who wouldn’t feel great after days of grey winter weather getting outdoors into pleasantly warm February sunshine and breathing in all that clean mountain air?

Colour comes back into your life with springtime Mimosa and new almond blossom. So just to please his old lady with the sad arm and wrist, himself took a lovely closeup. The boy done good.

 

February blossom in Roquebrun

more signs of spring

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Till next time. Broken bones permitting . . .

Languedoc Wine Tasting Report 6th November

November in Languedoc

November can be a strange month in Languedoc. Weather is changeable. The wind tests itself, blowing a hooley one day, stroking you the next. But not cold yet. No. That comes later. November is often humid when the Marin comes from the south and brings some dirty weather, grey and grotty.

Languedoc vines November

vines in November

The vines are not pretty. But you might get lucky and find some bunches left behind after the harvest. They are often right at the bottom of the plants where the machines have missed.

It’s good walking weather, though, and there are plenty of routes to keep the ramblers happy.

Hang on a minute. Didn’t this used to be the Vine Report on Wednesdays?

It did. But the vines are empty now. They’re getting ready to go to sleep. In some vineyards, the growers have already begun the mammoth hand-pruning work.

handpruning vines

all done by hand

You can see their white vans when you’re out walking the hills.

However, as promised, my route has taken me not to the great outdoors, but to a selection of venues for wine tasting. So it isn’t the Wednesday Vine report now – it’s the Wine Tasting Report.

There’s a lot of wine tasting to be done in Languedoc. You could spend a lifetime and still have only scratched the surface.

On his 101 Books to Read, writer Robert Bruce is currently reading book #63 on the Times Magazine 100 greatest novels list. His blog is really popular and rightly so. He reviews the books as he reads them, but his most popular posts are the ones where he gets sidetracked a little. Don’t we all get sidetracked? That’s why I call my blog page Random Thoughts.

Robert’s ambition is achievable. You can read 101 books. I don’t know what he’ll do when he’s finished the Times list. Maybe he’ll start another list, but what I’m getting at in my roundabout way is I could never taste all the wines there are sitting waiting for me out there. I could kill myself trying or end up in some rehab clinic. So, my ambition must be achievable.

Wine tasting in my own back yard

This is where I’m starting. It makes sense. Everybody and his aunty makes wine in my neck of the woods, so I won’t have to travel far.

Languedoc wine cooperative

vats, boxes and bottles

This looks like Happy Land to me.

Languedoc wine discussion

wine tasting gets serious!

Himself and a friend enjoy discussing what they like best in a wine.

We’re not experts. We can’t tell you the finer points of winemaking and tasting. But we know what we like and what we would buy to take home and give to our dinner guests.

Languedoc wine has come a long way from the cheap plonk that might have been better on your fish and chips. Some of this stuff is superb. So, we have made it our business to visit Domaines and cooperatives where we haven’t visited already and taste their wines. (Rubs hands with glee.)

Vinopolis in Florensac is five minutes away. Why haven’t we been there before? Don’t people often tend to overlook what is right there on their doorstep? We’d heard about it from friends who use the restaurant there. What a great idea, huh? A lunch time venue where you can get great food and try wine from the cellar before you buy cartons to take home.

Vinopolis

great food, great wine at Vinopolis

We tasted several wines from their fabulous range and because the day was warm we decided to stay with the whites.

One of the biggest surprises for me was their Muscat. This is a wine I usually overlook, having been disappointed before on account of it being too thin and sweet for my taste.

Not so. I loved it. It had much more depth than I was expecting – a really fruity taste that made your whole mouth sing. We bought 6 to take home to give a good old try out.

wine tasting empties

wine tasting empties

We also bought their Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc which, as you can see from the lable on the right has won the gold medallion at the Paris nationals.

The Rébus and the bottle of petit grain came from the vigneron at Bessan, one of our favourite places to sample.

And so, there is much to look forward to this coming season. I look forward to posting again.

Cheers!

Florensac cellar

Languedoc Vine Report #26 2nd October

The Languedoc grape harvest continues. It’s hard to believe our Mademoiselle is still on the vine.

Languedoc Merlot

still waiting!

In the village centre, at the cooperative it’s all systems go, bringing in the reds as they become ready. Some varieties take longer than others to reach optimum.

How much longer to wait?

Master of Wine, Juliet Bruce Jones, is watching weather forecasts and is waiting. Playing her cards. It’s a gamble, but the forecasts for our region are looking good with temperatures remaining in the high 20s.

Juliet grows Carignan and Mourvèdre grape varieties and already has her Rosé bubbling away. The reds need longer, though to lose some of their acidity. She tells me she’s confident one more week’s warm sunshine will bring her harvest home. You can follow Juliet’s Domaine Lou Cayla on her website.

Weather this week has been ideal.

Languedoc dawn

beautiful dawn sky

We recorded 30 degrees in the shade of our terrace and it’s still warm enough to get in our unheated pool.

Up in Bordeaux, they’re still worrying about the weather. Growers are confident, however, that all will be well. They’ve had harvests as late as this before: they know how to do it.

And so, autumn is upon us.

Languedoc autumn

ideal hill-walking weather

Time to get out there and do some more walking.

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You wouldn’t want to miss any, would you? Coming soon – a tour of our cooperative.

So for now, I’ll say Cheers! See you next time.

Languedoc Vine Report #25. September 25th

It’s September 25th and my twenty-fifth Languedoc Vine Report. When I began this weekly account of our local vineyards I didn’t realise a person could become so attached to a bunch of grapes on a vine. I’ve been taking photos of Mademoiselle Merlot since April when she was only a naked piece of vine wood.

What’s happening in the Languedoc vineyards?

It’s all happening. Last week there was a lull. After the whites had been harvested, the land fell quiet again. We were waiting for the reds.

Languedoc moon

harvest moon

Then, in the early hours, it was like War of the Worlds out there in the hills. There are lights everywhere – harvesters, tractors and trailers. The landscape is alive with activity and noise.

Every light you see twinkling in the background is another group of wine growers working to bring in the harvest. Apologies for the quality of the filming. It was 4.30 am. At this time of the year there’s no light till around 6.30. I waited for first light.

Languedoc dawn

Languedoc dawn

and made another shaky film.

This shows how the harvesters shake the fruit from the vines. In the distance the Montagnes Noir glowed pink in early sunlight.

Languedoc hills

pink dawn glow

Tractors load up and head for the cooperative. Notice how much liquid there is already!

In a previous Languedoc Vine Report you saw what happens when the fruit arrives at the cave. I’m planning another visit to the cooperative after harvesting is finished to show you what happens next.

Elsewhere in France the harvest is just as late as here in Languedoc. In Champagne, for example, they have only just begun.

This morning, mist rolled in from the Mediterranean. The air feels damp. They’ll need to finish this harvest quickly now. This may be the last photograph we will have of Mademoiselle Merlot before she gets whisked off to join her cousins.

Languedoc Merlot

Mademoiselle Merlot

I’m sure she’s going to taste just as good as she looks.

Autumn in the Languedoc vineyards

Elsewhere, the vineyards are looking autumnal. Leaves have changed colour. You can see where the harvesting machines have left behind some bunches at the bottom of the vines.

Languedoc autumn

freebies!

I looked out for more seasonal signs on the walk home.

autumn vines

vines in autumn

waiting for harvest

hanging around waiting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when I took this photograph of pomegranate flowers?

pomegranate flowers

bright orange pomegranate flowers

Look in the hedgerow today to see what’s there.

Languedoc country lanes hold a lot of surprises.

Last week, it was free figs and we made jam with them.

Today, there are enough pomegranates to make your own grenadine.

Languedoc pomegranates

more free fruit!

Join me next week for the latest news from the Languedoc vineyards. Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you. You can follow on Twitter @cmicklefield and I keep a Celia Micklefield author page on Facebook. See you there,

Cheers!

Celia