December 2011:

Nothing like the gentle warning that Christmas is only two weeks away to illustrate how Rives-Blanques  managed to slip into December and clamber half way up the month before any of us  even realised it.  And yet the month seemed well and truly done long before its undoing actually began.  So much going on!  Unusually warm temperatures made it a temperate start indeed, very confusing for the vines whose dormant cycle comes to an end just when the rest of us are beginning to go to sleep again: around the winter solstice.  This means they could leap back into action, and then be sorely hit by a hard-hitting winter – when eventually it arrives (a good reason to prune as late as possible).  If it arrives at all, that is.  In the mean time, it’s business as usual, and we keep our heads down all the way up to Christmas, which, in our case, and no matter what the weather, will certainly be white!

Saturday December 3
Big bravo day

Wine guides can be capricious, unreasonable, sometimes downright unfair fair weather friends.   So we look at the Guide Hachette, the ultimate guide to French wines, as a friend for all seasons and for all the right reasons.  And this new edition, the 2012 Guide, has proven itself to be a friend indeed: it marks the inclusion of the tenth consecutive vintage from Rives-Blanques. Actually pretty amazing.  And it awards a star yet again to our chardonnay, Odyssée.

To read what Hachette says about our wines this time, please click on the picture of the guide.

Wednesday 7 December.
Big blending day

The mathematics of it are confusing: so many hectolitres for this, so many hectolitres for that; and then there are the mathematics of taste too: what adds up to what with what.  It’s a heavy morning, tasting and setting the dosage for the Crémant 2011 – or what will be the Crémant 2011 in over a year’s time, when it’s done its second fermentation in the bottle – and blending the chardonnay and chenin country wine.  We emerge pretty tired, very hungry … and very happy.  The Crémant will be 100% chardonnay, something we have never done before, and the Country wine will be … delicious.

Friday 9 December
Big relief day

The trouble is, you just never know.  Blending wine in small quantities and test tubes may not correspond exactly to what happens when you blend the real thing.  So we all line up to taste the new Country Wine, now  assembled and put together in its tanks.  It is … delicious! We’re blown off our feet.

Friday 9 – Sunday 11
Big Days

Back up on our feet with Peter and Christa Wildbolz of Mas du Soleilla and their stunning La Clape wines at the wine tasting event organised by the glossy magazine, Terre de Vins in Narbonne.  Three days is quite a long time to be on your feet talking and pouring and talking some more.  And then pouring again.  Fortunately Jan’s 6’6″ frame can stand up to it.  Alot of people come by – and some come back a second and third time.  One person who does, is returning for a case of our Country Wine: “I’ll have six of that wine, you know, the one that’s simple but not stupid … like you” .  (He was referring to the mother, not the son, of course).

Tuesday December 13.
Big kudos day!

Here’s a big bit of kudos and heaps of encouragement for women in wine.  Today the Vinfilles of Languedoc-Roussillon, an association of female winegrowers,  were formally recognized as one of the region’s Victoires de la Réussite, members of the elite ‘decision-makers of Languedoc Roussillon’ at what was touted to be ‘une soirée d’exception’.

And exceptional it was.  The whole world seemed to be there (if the world is government officials of all sizes, shapes and ranks) – and the auditorium of the Corum in Montpellier was full to bursting.  Stars danced over the ceiling, acrobats performed on the stage, and drumrolls announced the names of each of the twelve winners.

When Pascale, President of the Vinifilles, was called up to be applauded as winner of the section “Equality”, all 18 of us promptly got up and trooped on stage with her.  We were not meant to.  But that’s a Vinifille for you: highly individualistic but very cohesive as a group.  So there we were, all dressed in black and wearing orange scarves like a misplaced rugby team, each affirming her love of her job and her passion to conserve the culture of wine.

Those who had gone before us were recognized for Entrepreneurship,  Growth, or for being successful Risk Takers or whatever.  We were there simply because we love what we are doing.  The organisers preferred to see us us as living proof that women can succeed in the world of wine.   “Emblematic” is what they said.  But if you’d seen us there, you might not have thought so.

Following after us was the award-winner of Languedoc’s Ambassador of the Year: the former rugby player and now one of the biggest players in the wine field, Gerard Bertrand.  But the Vinifilles occupied more stage than he did, and we could easily have  tackled him any day

(Click on the picture to see the video of the event)

Tuesday 21 December
Fave Rave

Suddenly we’re plunged into  grey skies, howling winds, constant rain.  Snow in the Pyrenees, finally.  Winter is on its way. Perhaps.

In fact, it’s the kind of weather for sitting around the fire, listening to music and reading magazines like Perswijn, if you read Dutch, that is.  And if you do, there’s a nice list of their favourite wines of 2011, in which our Blanquette features loud and clear.  We pass the article around, feeling immensely cheered.

…./to be continued