“L’aer, la terre et le complant, sont le fondement du vignoble”.
The reader may well ask what on earth has been happening on the new vineyard, since my last posting six weeks ago.
I have a confession: I have been totally distracted by work on the edit of my forthcoming book on a documentary photographer. But I have been pondering the future course of my vineyard blog. How am I going to keep you amused when activity on the new vineyard remains at such a low level? The vines grow slowly and receive a certain amount of care, but there will not be a great deal to blog about. So, instead, I am going to tell you about the working life of the vigneron, and the annual cycle of work on the vineyard. We’re going to learn, together, about the art of growing vines, and producing excellent grapes for wine-making.
Wine connoisseurs spend an inordinate amount of time developing rarified language around their wine tasting, and love to be knowledgeable about wine-making, but generally show little interest in what is at the heart of a good wine: the vine growing, and care, that will create the crop to make an excellent wine. If you go wine-tasting around here in the Malepere, it is the exception, rather than the rule, to get the opportunity to walk through the vines with the vigneron and hear about the growing.
So, over a period, we will remedy this. But for the moment, there has been activity on the vineyard so let’s cover it.
Following the June rains, the clay soil around the vines became brick-hard, so an early task, towards the end of June, was for a team to work on the vineyard, to hoe manually around the young vines: hard and slow work.
On this same parcel of land today, work started early, at 6.00 a.m., sensible bearing in mind we expect a temperature of 35 degrees by lunchtime. Gilles’ team has been busy hammering in the metal posts, to create the trellising for the Cabernet Franc vines. The posts are spaced regularly, by eye; they say the vigneron needs “bon oeil, bon pied, bon dos” (a good eye, foot and back). After the spacing, the tractor drives down the prepared row, halting at every post. It is armed with its ingenious accessory, a mechanical hammer that quickly rams each post home.
In this second picture, do note a few things about the rows of vines. These Cabernet Franc vines are planted in north-south oriented rows. This is optimum because the vines will enjoy sun on both sides during the day. Also the rows are long, which will make the vines easier to work. The distance between the rows of vines is calculated both to allow the space for the tractor to pass, but also takes into account the intended height of the trellising (“pallisage”) so as to allow light to penetrate right into the vines once they have grown to maturity.