October 2011: Adding it all up

An  unbroken streak of mindlessly magnificent weather which accompanied our harvest of 2011 spilled over into October – when the harvest was already over and done with.  Now our attention turns away from the mountains sprawled across a blamelessly blue sky, and into the winery, where the wines are happily bubbling in their barrels at the break of the month.  Clicking on the picture above shows the action.  This is the final reckoning taking place, Galileo’s great equation: wine =  sunlight + water … all we have to do now is add it all up.

Monday 3 October

No more alarm bells jangling from the press, no more heaving and sighing from the cooling systems, no more rumble of tractors and clanging of sorting tables.  Just silence.  Silence and sunshine.  We can’t believe the harvest is over.  But peaceful it is not.  Today we’re splashing around in water as we clean and polish all the harvest paraphernalia: the press, the sorting table, the trailers, the floor and walls of the winery, and put them away until this time next year.

Saturday 08 October
The Party’s Over

Temperature plummets and autumn roars in as we raise a glass to the pickings of our summer.  The harvesters come back for a last time.  Christianne, whom we’re used to seeing dressed only in tattoos and wellies (I’m quite partial to my wellies myself, so no complaints there) now comes resplendent in leopord spotted boots, leopard-spotted leggings and a leopord-spotted top.  She raises the upper leopard and lowers the lower leopard to display a brand-new tattoo: a rose, drawn at the bottom of her spine to mark the last day of the harvest.  I look around for my camera to catch Jan admiring the art, but alas.  Jean-Paul has brought his 14-year old son, he’s everyone’s favourite.  Mak seems to be behaving – as far as the women are concerned – but his brother is not, so I’m not sure where that leaves us. Probably with more irate husbands coming and breaking down our doors again.   We have a drink, we eat inordinate amounts of salade de gesiers, stuffed guinea fowl, cheese and apple pie, we tell stories, we show off our tattoos.

And then we say goodbye.

And now the harvest is officially declared over.

And summer has officially died.

Monday 10 October
Reviewed by la Revue

Well, it is very nice to read such nice things about our wines in the very good Guide to the Best Wines of France by the Revue du Vin de France.  Clicking on the cover will open up what they wrote.

I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I’m sorry that this really excellent wine guide, which we always recommend with such enthusiasm, still trots out all the same old stories.  But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect them to update all the hundreds of vineyards they write about …

Of which four are in Limoux.

And we are very glad to be one of them.

And we are also very proud that the sister magazine of  this guide has included our wines  amongst the best in France, for ten years in a row in its annual review on the best bottles of the millésime.

(Of which we are the only one in LImoux.)

So what am I complaining about?

Tuesday 11 October
On the Outside looking In

Today is a day like the day we took this picture: just spellbindingly beautiful.  Just the day to go out and take another picture like it – because this one is becoming a bit overworked.  Here it is in an article on the Outsider winemakers in the Languedoc, which appeared in the magazine Living in France.

Clicking on the picture will open up the interviews with the Outsiders.

And then the same picture was used by the French wine-writing duo, Gilbert & Gaillard in an article about champagne and other fizz, in their English language magazine, also just out this month.   Click here for that.

Thursday 13 October

The case of the fake pinot noir, which has held us in its thrall for over a year now, has almost ended … but not quite.

It centres on the sale  of falsely labelled pinot noir called Red Bicyclette to E&J Gallo and Constellation between 2006 and 2008.   The number of bottles seems to vary depending on what you read, but they say 18.5 million of them  – actually of merlot and syrah – netting in a nice profit of 7 million euro.  (Or was it dollars?  When the sums reach such astronomical figures it hardly seems to matter any more.)  Constellation have said they are satisfied that the pinot they bought actually was pinot.

Big players in the drama included a Carcassonne négociant called Ducasse, a regional president of the Crédit Agricole Bank, and Limoux’s own highly respected wine Cooperative, Sieur d’Arques, who sold the wine …  and reputedly earned about 1.5 million euro on the deal.

The Court of Apppeals in Montpellier yesterday gave suspended prison sentences and reduced fines to the offenders, going against the Advocate General’s plea to respect the authenticity of  grape varieties.  Sieur d’Arques’s fine was reduced to 150.000 euro, about one-tenth of their reputed earnings on the deal.

“How can there be fraud” one of the lawyers asked, “when no one has been deceived?”   This sounded rather like his question at the original trial: “How can there be a murder when there is no body?”

Coupled with the fact that no plaintiff was present, this may imply that the buyers of the brand Red Bicyclette were complicit in the plot.

Ducasse, the négotiant involved, will be launching an appeal.

Wednesday 19 October

Trouble with tasting is that it makes you so hungry.  We spend the morning tasting all the tanks and random samples of the barrels.  Some of them are still fermenting, but most have done their thing and now are  quietly recovering and getting themselves together.

Then we go up to the tasting room and try various different dosages of the Crémant 2009, tasting it against the 2008.  We decide to add only 2 gm of sugar to it, though two or three of us are dead keen to add nothing at all: Zero Dosage.  We compromise and decide to do some with and some without.

And then we go and have a really big lunch.  A good day’s work done in the space of a morning.  That’s when we realise that the temperature has plummeted and for the first time in an eternity, there’s rain.

Thursday 27 October

The rain was short-lived, and magical days rolled out one after the other in quick, endless succession broken only by startling sunsets in violent,  vivid colours.  This brings us up to the first hint of rain again today.   The complications of a complicate harvest continue to complicate our lives.  Today, a month after the harvest, many of the barrels are still fermenting.  Very very slowly.  Very very quietly.  Very very hesitantly.  But fermenting none the less.  Some times we have to take a bit of fermenting wine out of one and put it in the other to spur it on a bit.

We may even buy some aquarium heaters to heat up our barrels and get them moving on a bit faster.  (Next we’ll be putting goldfish in them too.)

But out in the field it’s all go.  All the rows between the vines have been ploughed, and seeded with oats and vetch.  This is for biodiversity.

We’ve chosen plants to make some more hedges in the vineyard, also for biodiversity.

We’ve talked with our neighbours about dedicating our shared hill to sexual confusion.  Yes, you heard right.  Rives-Blanques was the first vineyard in the Languedoc to experiment with confusing little moths called Eudemis and Cochylis so that they would not lay their eggs in our vines, but go away and lay them somewhere else.  Some people say the only good Cochylis is a dead Cochylis, but we would rather avoid spraying them – and us – to smithereens if we can.  Trouble is, these pheromones are very expensive.

And we’ve been doing our homework, counting up dead vines that need replacing.  And treating some others, afflicted by Esca which is a fungal disease to which there is no known cure apart from arsenic, with a new completely organic product, on a trial basis.

So the barrels may be lazing about, but we’re not.

…/to be continued.