Days 3 and 4 in Roussillon
My next job was to start sweeping the tops of the concrete tanks and top floor of the winery ready for washing down. Wow, Cinderella eat your heart out! Broom in hand, surrounded by clouds of dust I brushed and brushed and brushed, until the place looked clean.
We just about had time to get changed ready for a trip to Perpignan and a wine merchants called ‘Les Caves Maillol‘, where Guillaume, the shop’s owner, and his wife were hosting an ‘English wine tasting with Jonathon’. A good number of people turned up early and enjoyed the tastings and nibbles. I’m sure once the word spreads this will grow.
Back at the house, two mystery wines were brought out for tasting. It turned out they were both Malbec, one from the Languedoc, which I honestly would not have guessed, the other from the South West, a Cahors, which I almost got. Blind tasting really isn’t easy but it was very interesting.
I have been waking up with the village bells at 6am each morning and the chickens across the road are usually in full clucking action then. Saturday was the first morning I woke up to grey skies and the forecast for thunder storms was spot on, it started raining at lunch time and just got heavier and heavier.
The grapes need rain at this point just before harvest, even though it makes them swell it won’t dilute them too much as they will revert to what they were before. It’s the skins that need the water, as they are dehydrated and may not ripen fully if they lack fluid. At the moment they aren’t quite ripe, which is partly why the harvest is late, the hot topic of discussion in the wine community at the moment is that it’s been a strange harvest so far.
Today the tank cleaning needed to be finished, which meant actually climbing down inside each one – there were four to do. With the ladders lowered in and safety light tied on Georgia was first to disappear into the hole. It felt a bit like an Indiana Jones adventure finding some long lost cave and lowering yourself down into the unknown. I was a bit apprehensive but thankfully okay once in the tank and not claustrophobic, phew.
We cleaned two tanks each, which involved brushing the dry tank to get rid of all the bits, then rinsing it down with water. A cleaning solution was then pumped through the system.
It took the day to get the 4 tanks done and there was more still to do but we were due to head to Le Cave Byrrh in Thuir for Les Vignerons Des Aspres wine fair. So after a quick shower and change, off we went.
Keep following the series, read more here about the wine fair at Les Caves Byrrh and much more.
Day 1 in Roussillon
When I was told the harvest in the Roussillon was likely to be around three weeks late this year my heart sank as I was meant to spend early September at Domaine Treloar, Trouillas, specifically for this purpose, so the question arose as to whether I should go or not. However, having booked my flights an age ago, and not being able to change them without charge, I hoped that cancelling was not an option. Thankfully there was plenty that still needed doing in the winery and around the vineyard in the run up to the harvest, and Rachel and Jonathon were happy to have me come over.
It was a scorcher the week I was there, hitting at least 30 degrees in the height of the day and it just got hotter. Was this really September and the time kids were heading back to school? The only nip in the air came from the occasionally bolschy winds that whipped down the valley on a couple of nights, boy are they competition for the North Easterly winds we are subjected to at home.
My first day at the vineyard was spent with Georgia, an Australian intern spending 8 weeks at the Domaine, she is studying viticulture and oenology in Montpellier. Luckily we hit it off straight away as we were to share a room for the next week.
The sun was shining and the sky was blue as we set off on our slightly rickety bikes to find the vineyards for my first job of collecting grape samples. This was done by walking up and down selected rows of vines counting a number of paces so as to get a good spread and only choosing 5 grapes from each bunch. Wearing shorts wasn’t such a good idea as I came across many spider webs stretched between the vines.
The wasp spider will bite if disturbed but isn’t as deadly as it looks, thankfully!
It became very hot work by midday but surrounded by vines with the mountain ranges rising defiantly in the distance, it was truly breathtaking. I felt like I was floating on cloud 9, sun, heat, vines, mountains and peace!
Back at the winery with our bags of grape samples, we squished each berry so we could drain the juice into glasses for testing the alcohol levels. The colours of the sample juice really struck me as the Syrah juice is so pink, whilst the Grenache is cloudy green like apple juice, yet both have black skins. One of the Grenache plots is referred to by its Catalunyan name of Lladoner, which is a new synonym to me.
After a tasty lunch of leftover curry and salad cooked by Jill, who was over from New York on holiday, Georgia and I helped Jonathon clean the winery and get things tidied for the start of the picking the following day. I just loved the Champagne 2000 retro yellow press that is suspended on the upper floor of the winery.
We had to dust all the equipment down and wash it, something we would become very familiar with doing. Bloody hell, power washing the floor was enlightening, the black mould vanished leaving behind a light coloured concrete floor, it looked like Mary Poppins had worked her magic. The picking crates arrived and sat outside waiting to be stacked and sorted on the tractor’s trailer, déjà vu of cleaning these crates at Koopmanskloof Winery in Stellenbosch came flooding back.
After all that we were ready to go picking the next day. So thankfully it seemed I would get a taste of the Roussillon harvest after all.
Read more in the next of this short series when I shall be picking in the vineyard.