Heading home to the U.K. harvest after a week of Vendanges in Bordeaux … on train now going 200 mph! Gulp.
Been far too busy to write any diary. Trying to remember …
Woke Tuesday to see harvesters beginning on our old vines outside my window, before dawn. They go gently. We have to protect these old ladies, some of whom were planted in 1899. Hard to tell which, as vines have been individually replaced over the years but the village records clearly show this is a Victorian vineyard. Get a lift on the tractor to the grape receival place at La Clarière where I see a very expensive new sorting machine … ‘does the work of ten!’ Oh yes? … blatant disregard of our current belt-tightening/no spending rules! Ah! Jean-Marc! … but it’s just ‘on trial’ Mmm!
Round the corner the fruit from the rest of our 50 hectares is coming in from the harvesting machine … which actually harvests better than humans but is too rough for the old ladies. Lovely looking grapes. Small, black and clean. They get sorted by density in a sugar bath … healthy grapes sink, imperfects float and get skimmed away. The good fruit gets gently lifted via the cooling coils into a tank for cold-maceration before fermentation. The juice is spectacularly black-purple. This is going to be good.
Then, into the white barrel hall where some are already finished fermenting. It’s a particularly good year for whites. We might plant more white vines. There’s a rumour that the great Ch. Cheval Blanc has bought their next-door vineyard with the intention of converting it to white. ‘Blanc is the future’, some say. I wonder. But if it is, we are prepared.
The best bit comes next … Le Déjeuner de Vendanges with the whole team crammed around the kitchen table. Oysters shucked by Vincent, rustic pâtés of every shape and texture imaginable, then Jean-Marc’s paella … taught to him by his Spanish mum. “Three litres of stock to one kilo of Bomba rice … and you must not stir AT ALL!” He’s right; that way you get to scrape off a wonderful, crunchy base layer. Lots of new wines to try … hazy afternoon. Then leftovers for dinner. More wines. Collapse of old man.
Wednesday, go with Iain over to Saint-Emilion where the rich people live, to see Jonathon Malthus in his new winery ‘Le Dôme’ which he got Lord Foster, no less, to knock up for him. It has been called a flying saucer but unlike all the other new wineries sprouting up in Saint-Emilion as they desperately try to spend their vast profits, it’s nicely discreet and not at all blingy. Funnily enough it’s located in the little area of vineyards where I bought my first Saint-Emilion fifty years ago. It was then called Château Matras and we sold it for just under £1 a bottle. Years later those vines were absorbed into Château Canon which sells today for just under £200 a pop.
But, if you’re up for those sort of prices Jonathon will do you a luxurious in-winery tasting for just €50 … 360 degree vista and Norman Foster’s finest thrown in.
Back to our place for dinner with Mark up from The Midi with samples of new wines at good prices. More later.
Thursday early … the joy of seeing Ulysses the big Breton horse gently ploughing our narrow terrace vineyards. Beautiful, beautiful sight in the morning sunlight.
Then wise Monsieur Ali takes me to the station. He passes on this old African saying … “The old man sitting down sees further than the young man standing up.” I’ll run that one past my sons.
Man on train has just asked if my name’s Tony! Says Laithwaites kept him going during Covid. Thanks, the pleasure’s mine … especially as he went online and ordered a case there and then.