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The Vigneron at work

27 Oct
squeeze those babies

squeeze those babies

That’s it.  The grapes are all in and the Vigneron is content.  No more 24/7 reading of satellite images and predicted weather patterns on numerous websites, he can relax and is relieved that this region has been pretty bloody lucky with its weather.

The grapes on the vines looked great and ripened slowly resulting in fruit with a lower baume and high maturity.  So, enfin, 2013 looks like a good year!  The man is happy.

Autumn vines, La Liviniere

Autumn vines, La Liviniere

Autumn vines 2

I came down from the hill rather early a couple of mornings ago and had a peek at what was going on in the cellar.  I love the smell in there.  Takes me back to when we met.  OK squeaky violins time – yes, harvest time is special for me, it was during a harvest, all those years ago, that the V and I met.  I was in my hometown, Adelaide and he was ‘the Frenchie’, with little English (come on, admit it), clad in King Gee work gear, a divine Roman nose, working long vintage hours for a winemaker friend – that swept me off my feet.

Fast forward a decade or more, and I am still smitten when I smell the tanks of fermenting grapes in the cellar (oh to bottle this in a jar, a quick whiff and happy married couple all over again…).

‘Les Vendanges’ is a dynamic time and as I’ve said many times before, the village comes alive when the grapes are coming in.  A whole year’s work is reaping its rewards and the old tractors are out on every village road, chugging in full force with trailers laden with glistening grapes.  Even our baby was born on the first day of an Aussie harvest…

But let me get back to where I started.  I was in the village early one morning this week and called in on the V to see what was going on in his cellar.  The red grapes are all resting in their tanks and every couple of days they’re  ‘pumping-over‘.  After a month of this, they will put it all through the press.  One more step towards a delightful, drinkable juice.

Here’s some images for you from that morning, in and out of the cellar…

hq bn

ben at work

Benji in the cellar

Benji and Yves

grenache

grenache!

juicy Grenache

nose

gren a gren bthe Grenache resting in wooden 'tank'

the Grenache resting in wooden ‘tank’

And over the road…

the neighbours opposite

the neighbours opposite, Domaine Arnaud

yves 2

…another neighbour, another Yves – of Chateau Faiteau, the cousin of Domaine Arnaud…(in a village, it’s all family)

Eloise

Eloise, downtown La Liviniere

downtown La Liviniere

Eloise and Fanny

Eloise and Fanny

nap

heart door

hearts

laundry wall

aut col

…and the ride back up the hill to home

autumn col 1

picking

11 Oct
Ambroise emptying 'la hotte'

Ambroise emptying ‘la hotte’

Picking at last.

There’s been stops and starts… and now it’s all GO to get the grapes in.

We’re harvesting three weeks later than previous years, but it’s shaping up to be a pretty good ‘recolte’ … there’s a charged atmosphere and smiles all round.

I’ll fill you in on this harvest over a few posts, but here’s a selection of pics from today, in and out of our village.

(you may note some ‘fx’ in the images – my dear old camera is on the blink so what you see are the results of lumping around with a clunky electronic rectangle)

woke to to the noise of the harvester outside the kitchen window

woke to to the noise of the harvester outside the kitchen window

tent-picking

tent-picking

checking out the noise... a tractor cruising down the driveway

checking out the noise… a tractor cruising down the driveway

picking 1

pick cal1

here comes the sun

cal pick3

empty 2

empty 3

empty 4

cal 7

house on the prairie

pick cal 2Meanwhile, back in the village…

ca 4

chat arnaud

clearing out remains of the ‘pressoir’ (press)

ca 3

the Vigneron having a spray

the Vigneron having a spray

...and the ladies are still out checking the 'raisins'

…and the ladies are still out checking the ‘raisins’

 

harvest is coming

19 Sep

la liv panneau

…any day now.

Benji’s hovering over the grapes, ready to pick what will be a very late harvest… it’s about three weeks later than previous years.

And he has a (very enthusiastic) little helper, checking on sugar levels.

lilas checking grapes

sweet berry picking

4 Sep
Lilas and her pickings ...not quite the ripe grapes papa is hoping for, but they taste just as good

Lilas and her pickings …not quite the ripe grapes papa is hoping for, but they taste just as good

A little mini update from the vineyards…

‘Les Vendanges’ (harvest) will begin remarkably late for us this year, with picking beginning as late as one week from now.  Yes we’re enjoying beautiful sunny days in these first few days of September, but the grapes are having a hard time ripening due to 2013’s fairly cool Spring and late Summer.   Waiting waiting waiting.  Benji’s getting those annual, pre-mens vendanges nerves and I’m keeping food on the table…

But even if the grapes aren’t all sweet and ripe for the picking, there is some ripe fruit to be had…  After an evening’s inspection of the vignes (vines), we’ve been tucking into the wild mures (blackberries) out the back!… 

grape walk3

grape walk 2

grape walk

berry picking season

berry picking season 2

And hey Dad, Happy Birthday!!….

Greetings…

9 Jun
Paris postcard found at a 'vide-grenier' - 'Place de la Republique'

old Paris postcard found at a ‘vide-grenier’ – ‘Place de la Republique’

Up early this morning and dashed out to a village ‘vide-grenier’…  it’s a type of garage sale, but instead of just one household selling their wares on the street, it’s a whole village full!   If you’ve never been to one, they are just brilliant and full of potential treasure – and trash (as many would say!).

I’ve got to say I’m a little hooked and it’s one of those rare mornings where I’m ready to spring out of bed at 6am.  There’s even get a slight adrenaline rush as I jostle for a car park close to the sectioned-off streets and head towards the first stand displaying its wares.  I’m on a mission –  my purse is heavy with coins and my chest is literally bursting with excitement.  Sicko, you might say.  But really!  Vide-greniers (this translates as ’empty the attic’) offer all sorts of wonderful objects. And hey it’s in France, so for me that makes it totally exotic (mind you, being far from home, kangaroos and gums are also completely exotic for me now).  It’s not everyday you can buy the old scribbled-in picture books from the elderly monsieur’s childhood collection, or the 60s flowery frock from Madame’s hand-me -downs.  I’ve even picked up a whopping Le Creuset cast iron pot  for 8 Euros (now this find was in the half-dark it was so early and I had a torch!).   Mmmn, a post on vide grenier treasures will follow!

These ‘village garage sales’ are held on weekends (Sunday is the big day for our region)and start from around 8am, with people beginning to pack up around 4pm.  But if you want to find the ‘better’ stuff and real bargains, it’s best to head out as early as 7am (ie 8 Euro cookpot) – the time where you’ll rub shoulders with the ‘professionals’ already out for the hunt.

Here’s a few pics of some local vide greniers to whet the appetite for some…

vg 8

aaargh!!! this is a sight that sends me CRAZY

vg 2

vg 1

vg 10-11

vg 9

vide grenier 7

vg 7

I just loved this lady’s pricing for her old linen

vg 12

Lilas’ already an old hand at these things

vg 5

…that’s her with the Viewfinder

Today the weather has been pretty dire, so I headed out early and came home early (it has been raining much of this weekend – not something we’re needing when it is already difficult to access the vineyards by tractor, we’re hoping the forecast for heat for this week dries everything up).

I came home with a few postcards amongst my finds.

Goutez nos olives

This first one, above, was actually written (from the 60s?) on today’s date!?!  Woh!

Reading over the cards from this mornng over a coffee, I noticed the date marked was today's

Reading over the cards from this mornng over a coffee, I noticed the date marked was today’s

But have a look at these beauties…

'Babyface'

‘Babyface’

'Rond Point'

‘Rond Point’ (the guy on the far right side is to blame for this purchase)

...not much to be said

…not much to be said

guitar chick

You go girl, stroke those strings…

st eloi

this guy’s a fave

frenchie loveeers

check those fellas (mounds of muscle)

…and on the above theme,

...love an old recipe postcard

…love an old recipe postcard

But I do love a pretty card too.

sailboat postcard

another old Paris postcard:  'Marche aux Fleurs de la Cite'

another old Paris postcard: ‘Marche aux Fleurs de la Cite’

a sprung Spring, part 2… Purple reigns!

26 Apr

It’s still Springing – so here’s some more Spring pics for you from around the Minervois… (I just wish I could put all the incredible smells on this page too)

Purple reigns!

Lilas and lilas

Lilas and lilas

glycine1

spring 4

bernard

L'Arbre de Judee (Judas Tree)

L’Arbre de Judee (Judas Tree)

spring 1

the plane (plataine) trees are budding

the plane (platane) trees are budding

and so are the vines (buds can be called 'bourgeons')

and so are the vines (buds can be called ‘bourgeons’)

glycine house

glycine house2

market man

Spring market day

market legs

market legs

market friends

market friends

lilas manon 2

and then a little evening promenade...

and then a little evening promenade…

almost a picnic at hanging rock!

almost a picnic at hanging rock

spring walk 1

spring walk 2

Here little piggy

22 Apr
following in the footsteps

on the trail

When I’m on a roll and doing the right thing by my back (my G.P. freaked when I said I was discovering the merits of beer and wine over prescription pills to ease chronic pain), I get out and walk.

Up and down and around the numerous ‘chemins‘(paths) of our local village after dropping Lilas off at school – or if I’m at home, I lock the door behind me and head out for a wander around ye olde hamlet.  There’s nothing better for head-clearing than getting out and enjoying the sights and smells and sounds from the viewpoint of your feet (I haven’t yet embraced the bike-thing, despite obvious inspiration from the many folk here in Frogsville).

And now more than ever – with the hunting season is officially over, I can walk panic-free.

It sounds crazy but believe me, there’s this dodgy period of the year, from September to the end of February, when delightful shots ring in the air and I freeze and cower behind some vines.  The hunters are out.  Crouching like a ninny, you wonder if your bulk in a huge brown puffa jacket ressembles more wild sanglier (boar) than human.  Especially when you’re not much taller than a wild boar – and on all fours (ooh la la, I won’t start).  Here little piggy.

shells

Lilas likes collecting up the rubbish they leave behind. On you girl!

I’m not joking, accidents happen all over France each year during hunting season.  You can find any number of stats on the net, one of which claims 57 hunting-related deaths in the 2012/2013 season (up from 42 in the 2011/2012 year).  But the stats, depending who is reporting them, vary: the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage cites for 2011/2012, 131 hunting-related accidents of which only 18 were mortal, for eg.  And don’t forget the 9% concerning ‘non-hunters’…

hunting plaque

It’s a topic charged with anger on both sides of the fence.  I wonder which side this author is hanging on…

Oohla, Bernard has a petit hunting zizi surprise in his pocket

Ooh laa, Bernard’s petit hunting zizi surprise has popped out of its pocket – image courtesy of La Buvette des Alpages
…(AND NO, Bill! – that is not me that circled the goods)

Yes I’m confused, and wary of the propaganda – but when you’re out there enjoying the cacophany of shots whilst stepping over colourful empty shell cases, I wonder what my odds are.  I should maybe don a red beanie and have a plastic red rose held high, a la the travel guides shepherding their groups around the grand squares of Europe.

a tranquil walking path

a tranquil walking path, minus the hunting crowd

On the less extreme end, some groups simply argue for a ban on Sundays (most accidents occur on weekends)…  This leads me to wonder why Wednesday (with Saturday and Sunday) is also nominated as an’open’ hunting day of the week  – when it is, all-over France, the mid-week day-off for children from school?  Can’t say I’m itching to take Lilas out for a walk when you can see the camouflage khakis and gun cocked on a guy strolling not that far from the kitchen door.

But hey, on the whole I have no problems with hunting if regulations are respected.  It’s incredibly popular here in the Minervois and you see a big proportion of the villagers getting involved.  It’s almost like a religion.  And these guys are outside, enjoying the elements (and the odd bottle of red) and providing some of us meat-eaters with food on the table.  Probably better than frozen nuggets, pot and a few hours of Playstation in a dark living room .

dawgs in the back

dawgs in the back…  (I’d been wondering where I’d put this pic)

So onto those walks.  Like I said,  the season has offically ‘closed’ and the hunters are at rest for the next few months at least.  The piggies et al can relax – and me too.

hamlet 8

hamlet 6

hamlet 3

4L hamlet

calam5

hamlet 2

black pusscalam13

hameau

mousse

calam1

hamlet9

hamlet 10

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