Vine Lines - January 2009

Blanques in name, Blanques in nature: Christmas at Rives-Blanques was white (and for once we're not talking wine) and so too were parts of this month. The rest was tempestuous, windy, cold and wet: we emerge (intact) from heavy winds and high waters to wish you a very happy remaining eleven months of the year. Our foreman Mak, the former-foreman Ahmed, and Monsieur Le faced down the elements this month with something approaching heroism : 96,800 vines pruned and fine-tuned to perfection, one by one, vine by vine. Truly, this is a "trio with brio" . So the year is off to a good, albeit somewhat plodding and muddy start – pretty much to the liking of the Ox (the new lunar year which promises such great things for Agriculture..)

And how's this for a good New Year's Resolution? Cuvée Occitania is being converted from sustainable, integrated Agriculture Raisonnée to full, official organic. Occitania is made from a Renaissance grape variety called mauzac, and it is the perfect candidate for the job: these are very old, un-cloned vines, and the field is isolated by truffle oaks, wild woods, and things that crash around in the dark. Truly, it has all the makings for "bio with brio". Which is not to say we are any less enthusiastic about Agriculture Raisonnée : Rives-Blanques was amongst the first in France to go this route, and if the target is met of making half the French vineyard sustainable by 2012, then France will be a better place.

There is a certain consolation to be found sitting right at the back of an Aer Lingus plane when it is your wine being served up front in the Premier Class. But now Dédicace, the Premier Class chenin blanc, has been given another high-flying job: it is being sent on a vinous goodwill mission to the USA, representing the Languedoc vineyard. Dédicace was chosen by a Franco-American panel of experts to be one of 28 Ambassadors of the Languedoc, and flies off next month for New York , Chicago and San Francisco to help promote the wines of this region.

(The first thing it could do is promote its own very good price/quality value: the renowned American Wine Spectator straight-facedly but mistakenly bumped its price up a lionlike tenfold ("leo with brio"?), to a breathtaking $140 a bottle. And without so much as batting an eyelid.)

Meanwhile, back at home nothing matters quite as much as Carnival. The world's oldest, longest and longest-running carnival has partnered Blanquette, Limoux's evanescent effervescent, ever since 1500-something, and nothing – not even gales, hail or national strikes – can stop it from going on for a few hundred years more. The keys to the town were officially handed over to the Carnivaleers earlier this month, and the party goes on, unabated, and every weekend, until the Sunday before Palm Sunday. That's a long time. A very long time. But the bands are indefatigable, and the Blanquette bravely bubbles on….

Just as surely and as unstoppably as Carnival, we'll be back again this time next month too - unless you email

30 January 2009