June 2014: Double Happiness

Some times you enjoy good weather.  Some times you love it to bits.  Right now, we are loving it to bits.  Good weather well timed is 喜喜, that is, double happiness.  Happiness twice over, or whatever.  There is some point in good weather when you don’t need it; but  there is every point when you do.  Right now, the whole of Rives-Blanques is in flower, every single vine is either on the point of breaking into flower, or is right in the middle of flowering … or is just approaching a happy end to flowering – and this is the moment when we really  don’t want any rain.

Though these clusters of flowers are self-pollinating, they need sunny weather and a nice breeze to become bunches of grapes.  So it goes without saying that if the flowering is flawed, then good-bye vintage 2014.

To put it another way,  the inflorescences are in  florescence …  full fluorescent florescence, you could say.  And Rives-Blanques is holding its breath.


Saturday 7 June

A nice couple of hopeful young Canadians come by, to taste the wines.  No, we are not open, but then, we are not closed either.  They are welcome to come in.

“Gee, it’s difficult to find anywhere open on a Saturday”,  they say.   “Last week we were in Saint Emilion, and they wouldn’t let us taste.  They said they were too busy with the flowering.”

“Busy with the flowering?”

“Yeah, the flowering of the vines, or something.   That must be a really busy time  for you?”



Wednesday 11 June

Marc Dubernet is a scientist blessed with a brilliant nose.  He once memorably stuck his brilliant nose into a glass of our Blanquette de Limoux and pronounced: fleur de vigne –  the evanescent smell of the vine’s flower forever blooming in our effervescent.  Ever since then, we walk in the vineyard smelling hard.  We do it every year during that short period when the vines are flowering.  But it’s so fragile, so terribly delicate –  and every time, it’s the gorse, of course, that takes over.  Great yellow waves of sweet garrigue wafting over our vines and into our wines.  But if people ask what they are smelling in their Blanquette, the answer is straight-faced and serious: fleur de vigne


Friday 13 June

Work on the construction site at the bottom of our hill has come to a sudden halt.  They’ve undug all their digging, and closed up the holes to think about it for a year and a half.  There is quite a lot to think about: a tomb dating back to 3500 BC, and signs of an 8th century settlement.  How cool is that?


Monday June 16

The chardonnay we picked last year told us quite firmly it wanted to get out of its barrels, so that is what we are doing today.  Carefully emptying, cleaning, and then putting away our barrels ready for harvest 2014.  (Which will be upon us before we know it.)

Always an exciting moment, this.   All the barrels have been emptied into a big tank and blended together.  Our hopes are high: La Revue du Vin de France has already tipped this as one of the top white wines of vintage 2013, and we like to think they are right.  The proof will be in the pudding: bottling next month.


Thursday 19 June
Say Cheese Please!

One of the most important cheese producers in Holland sent their Cheese Master over to taste their cheeses against our wines with a handful of our local customers.  We invited Domaine de Gayda just down the road to put some of their red wines up to the challenge: their lovely cabernet franc, and the award-winning syrah, Chemin de Moscou.

Cheese Master Ron started off by telling us how to go about it: first look at the cheese, consider its colour.  Then smell it, consider its smell.  Then taste it, consider its taste. Then, and only then, take a cautious sip of your wine. You will see that the Blancs de Blancs will taste sweeter and softer with this young cheese (it did), blending happily into a single soft whole (it did),  whereas the  same cheese with our mauzac, Occitania, will become a really successful marriage of two separate personalities (it did).  For instance.

Lest we forget the main concern in our cellars, Xaxa got up and hastily presented a quick rundown to the systematic approach of wine tasting (consider the colour, consider the smell, consider the texture, consider the taste, consider the length, and so on), making us all realise that there is not much to choose between tasting cheese and tasting wine.   Excepting that tasting them together is a very good idea, of course.

And the camera caught this table doing it all in the right sequence….

We worked our way systematically through five different and wonderful cheeses, ranging from young goats’ cheese (“I’ve never seen a goats cheese like this in France!” some one exclaimed) to the three year old VSOP cheese made from cows’ milk.  One thing became clear: no matter how good the Gayda red wines were (and they were very good indeed), they could not do the cheese full justice, nor (even worse) the cheese them – with the exception of the powerful VSOP.  What we did not have were any creamy Camembert-type cheeses, which may have been a better match for the reds.  Reypenaer, however, do not make any creamy Camembert-type cheeses.

Which reminded Ron to remind us: perfide any Gouda that calls itself Gouda, it will undoubtedly come from Lille, or some other nefarious Gouda-copying place.  The only Gouda worth its salt is a Gouda prefixed by the magic trademark word “Holland”.

It was an interesting and well-spent two hours, also well spent in terms of the € 250 Ron raised for his favourite childrens’ charity, de Opkikkerer.

Friday 20 June
C’est la fete! 

It basically is always party time when the Vinifilles, the female winegrowers of the Languedoc, get together.  Today we got together in the magnificent new cellars at Domaine Ollier-Taillefer in Faugeres, to throw a party.  But of course, what else would we throw?  In fact, it was a party to thank the sponsors who sponsored our party in February at Vinisud, the big Mediterranean wine trade fair: a party for a party.  Well, why not.  In typical Vinifilles style it took less than an hour to decorate the tanks with bright orange Vinifilles hats, and set out a massive spread for our sponsors.

Conviviality is a very overworked word in these parts (as is ‘passion’ ) but I have to say:  it was convivial.  And the Vinifilles are a very passionate, convivial bunch.





…/to be continued