Wednesday Vine Report #8

Vine watching has made me notice things more. By paying particular attention to what’s happening in the vines, it’s as if my eyes have been opened to much more besides. I’m seeing flowers and wildlife I never noticed before. The mountains around us change with the light. Sometimes they completely disappear into a blue haze. At other times, when they are backlit, they seem close enough to touch. The rest of me is becoming more attuned to my surroundings, too. I can feel shifts in the weather; sense changes in pressure. I can tell with my eyes closed when there’s a storm on the way. And, hey, I must be benefitting from all that extra walking I’m doing up hill and down dale.

The weather is peculiar this year. Although we’ve had days warm enough to wear flip flops and a few evenings warm enough to eat outdoors and do a spot of GaryWatching, spring has stayed generally much cooler than usual. Also, we’ve had more rain. As a result, weeds and grasses are growing to monster proportions. There’s more work in the vineyards.

vineyard weeding

clearing between the vines

Weeds love the weather we’ve been having: cooler, damper. They’re not welcome. They have to go. Out come the tractors again, towing their little rotavators. In the picture above, note the air-condtioning unit on top of the cab. When this grower’s grandfather tended the vines, he wouldn’t have had such a luxury on his horse and cart!

cultivator

getting ready for the next row

Drivers have to swing out into the lanes to make their turn for the next row. Where there is no lane to use, the turn is too sharp and the pattern of work shifts to tilling alternate rows. In places where it’s narrower still, they work every third row, backwards and forwards through the vineyard till it’s all done.

Then you get a clear picture of those familiar stripes running through the land.

vineyard rows

working in the vines

Our Mademoiselle Merlot is now quite a lady. Here she is in close up, showing healthy babies on the way.

Merlot grapes

sunshine in the Merlot vineyard

High winds this last week have caused some damage to the vines on the outer rows where the stalks have been snapped clean away from the branch. But our baby is looking fine and has come through the gales in good condition.

Rainstorms always come to this part of France in early spring at the transition between cool weather and the powerful heat of summer, but this year it’s happened later.

There is STILL snow on top of Canigou and until it’s gone we can expect more cool winds. However, the vineyards look good to me.

Merlot vineyard

Merlot vineyard looking toward the coast.

The hill in the far distance is Mont St. Loup which overlooks Cap d’Agde, a popular holiday resort with French families. Every water sport you can think of is there. In July and August Cap d’Agde is as packed with people as our vineyards are full of grapes. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the picture.

As for the Chardonnay vineyard which, you remember is across the lane. Here’s this morning’s photo.

Chardonnay vines

Chardonnay reaching for the sky

Chardonnay vines

Chardonnay vines a few weeks ago

I was standing in my usual spot to take this picture. It’s only a matter of weeks since I said that in a short time you wouldn’t be able to see through the foliage to the earth between the rows. The contrast is remarkable.

I’ll keep watching to see what the growers do about all that whippy growth. My feeling is most of it will be cut back.

vineyards

another view of rolling vineyards

More vines further along this morning’s vineyard walk. There are so many lanes criss-crossing through the vineyards, you can take a different walk every day and catch different views of the countryside. Sometimes, something unexpected happens, like the day I saw the perfect circle drawn in the sky by a fighter jet.

This morning’s surprise was a solitary figure hand-hoeing between the vines. My camera is always ready so I asked him for permission to take his picture. When he learned I was going to put him on the internet, he was happy to oblige.

beans and grapes

pulling up beans

Between each vine, this wine grower is using the space to grow broad beans. I hadn’t seen this before. Whether there is mutual benefit to beans and grapes I couldn’t say. My French isn’t good enough to understand everything he was saying and his French sounded Spanish. Many of the growers in our departement of Herault came from Spain to find work and settled here. They speak French, but with Spanish intonation. It’s lovely, but difficult for me to follow.

He insisted we took some beans. They’ll be fantastic lightly steamed and with a knob of butter on top.

broad beans

they don’t come much fresher than this . . .

I hope you’re enjoying this weekly catch up with what’s happening in the vineyards near my home. I’m certainly enjoying putting it together. I’d like to say thank you for visiting my website. Do please leave a comment if you wish and don’t forget to sign up for news of new posts.

Cheers!

Celia

P.S. Due to computer problems, I’m posting this week’s report early, while my machine is up and running. It keeps turning itself off. The poor old girl is due for retirement.

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