DOG DAYS AT RIVES-BLANQUES, July 2015
It’s the Canicule! A stultifying, stupefying, grinding, relentless, unforgiving and exhausting heat not experienced in over 100 years, they say … but the grapes are magnificent: no sign of stress or thirst (yet). Unlike us.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Canicule comes from the Latin Canicula, the “little dog” immortalised in the brightest star of the night sky, Sirius. When Sirius rises in tandem with the sun, you get a heatwave – as the Romans, Egyptians, and scores of other civilizations have known for ages. From the “little dog” Canicula, it is just a skip and a hop to Canicule and Dog Days. Which is what we have right now: la Canicule. Dog Days that knock you off your feet and lay you out flat.
Since we are pretty heat-struck ourselves, we thought we’d review the last month or two through the eyes of our very own rising-star canicula, Bacchus Maximus …
So the big news: a unique opportunity came our way, to buy a magnificent 2 ha vineyard planted with beautiful old chenin blanc and chardonnay vines, 400 m high, cheek to jowl with our very own best Odyssée field. Of course, we grabbed it. To celebrate, we had a family supper midst the vines, revelling in the fact that the nights cool off radically up here. And the view came for free.
The breaking news: Pretty incredible but true – fourteen consecutive vintages from Rives-Blanques have featured in La Revue du Vin de France’s round-up of the best bottles of the year, something of a record for the region. This time it was the mauzac, Occitania, written up as their No. 1 Languedoc wine for its fruit in the otherwise acidity-driven 2014 vintage. Of course we are all extremely pleased.
The inside news: We held a marvellous taste-off of white wines v. red wines with Holland’s most famous cheesemaker, Reypenaer, in the airconditioned comfort of our cellars with 30 customers. Bacchus took an intelligent interest in the proceedings, but he, like we, knew all along what the best combination would be. It is worth repeating, though: white wine is nearly always the better choice.
The bad news is so small you can’t even see it. It is a bacteria called Flavescence Dorée, carried by a tiny aptly-named vector, Scaphoideus Titanus – ‘titanic’ being the operative word in this case. The disease threatens to become as dramatic and as unstoppable as Phylloxera was in the 19th Century, and like Phylloxera, it continues to baffle the best brains in the land. There is no known cure – but you can always kill the carrier. Gone are the pray or spray days: every vineyard in every affected area is obliged by French law to spray against the vector, so that we can all sleep easy.
The closing news: August approaches, and like the rest of France, we shall be going on holiday to get in some R&R before the harvest kicks in. Jan-Ailbe will stay behind to man the fort, conduct the Tuesday Tour Talk and Tasting, answer any requests, and just generally run the show. He’s reachable around the clock on T. 0677576332
The good news: Well, there is an effective antidote to all this heat!
(The other one is rain, which has begun to fall as we speak… And that really is good news.)
22 July 2015