September 2010


If your copy of this month’s Vine Lines does not come over properly, please click here

A group of artists came to Rives-Blanques this month and painted the vineyard suspended in silence, holding its breath. Everyone around us was already knee-deep in the harvest, while we were still sitting out the calm before the storm. What gave us courage was the 2011 edition of the venerable Guide Hachette of the wines of France, which came out at the same time. “We said they would have a great future” the venerable guide said, “and we were not wrong.” Every one of our vintages to date has been selected by this guide, but this edition is the first time that all our appellations across the board have been cited in one single volume: our Blanquette (with a star); our Vin de Pays d’Oc (chardonnay-chenin); our AOC Limoux (Odyssée) and our Crémant de Limoux (with a star). What better or more encouraging gift on the eve of this, our 10th anniversary harvest ?

And then the storm broke, and suddenly the nail-biting wait was over. On Monday September 20 everything came together, and we haven’t stopped (or slept) since. First the grapes for the Blanquette and the Crémant, picked by hand and by day; then the chardonnay for the Vin de Pays d’Oc harvested by machine at night. Sometimes the two came together (day and night). But if you shoot for quality, there’s no choice: machine harvested grapes should be kept as cold as possible. Here is a harvesting machine working in the dark, so to speak, under last week’s full moon … almost a thing of beauty, were it not for all the leaves you find on the sorting table. But the grapes bounced past cold as icy marbles.

Now we are about half way home, and we have had some unforgettable days: the mountains gleaming with alpenglow, the sky a peerless blue, the pickers acting like the proverbial happy harvester, and the grapes singing, I promise, singing on the vines. But it can’t all be only good news: for a start, quality looks good but quantity is really down, particularly the mauzac for Cuvée Occitania. Then there’s the weather, which threatens to become skittish. So it’s not in the bag yet. Today and tomorrow (all going well) we’re picking the chardonnay for Odyssée, Saturday is for sauvignon (fingers crossed), and then we’ll get to the chenin blanc when it declares itself good and ready….

We’ll return to our monthly video clip on the life and times of an old chenin blanc vine at Rives-Blanques next month, unless you click on to be released from the next harvest update in our October’s Vine Lines.