Fete des Vendanges

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Last night was la Fete des Vendanges …A big party thrown by my friends at Chateau Unang for all those who have worked, as I have, picking their grapes. We ate an amazing meal that started with Champagne and finished with a Quince and raspberry crumble. I should point out that I have been trying to write about working on the harvest for the last two weeks but grossly under estimated how tiring picking 15 hectares of various varieties in rain or shine could be! We started picking at 8am and would have a row each. The tractor would travel down the middle row and would have a boy working on either side. I was generally on one of the outside rows which was very kind of those in charge as a full bucket (or seau) of grapes is seriously heavy. When someone’s bucket was full they would shout seau! and everybody (regardless of how full their bucket was) would have to pass their pickings underneath the vines towards the tractor, where they could be emptied into the back which was called a Ben. The novelty value of doing something so different in the incredibly beautiful setting of a Visigoth chateau was short lived however as 9hours of picking grapes that tended to be growing at knee height meant that all I could think about was having a bath, or a biscuit.
One lovely aspect was learning about the vines, the effects of weather on grapes, the rules and regulation of producers face and many of the several important wine related words to learn when living in France. The first all important word is degustation or tasting, the second is vendange itself, meaning literally grape harvest. You then have all the grape variety names such as Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Clairette. I think I should make it my winter project to learn more about viticulture as it was so immensely satisfying to see my bucket get hauled into the mix with everyone else’s.

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