What a strange summer we have had! The late spring was bone dry – by June the fields were scorched and we all feared we were in for an epic drought. Then everything changed: July was unseasonably cold and wet and things did not improve much in August. Fortunately the long-awaited Indian Summer showed up in September and the grapes put on a spurt. The date of the vendange, which at one point looked like being in October, was finally fixed for September 27th.
This is not just a random selection but has to be assessed by the vintner, in our case, Hervé Souhaut.
We took a small sampling of the grapes to his cave at the Château des Romaneaux in Arlebosc, where he crushed them and tested the juice with a little gadget which weighs the sugar content and calculates the potential volume of alcohol. We were relieved to get a reading of over 11% which meant that the picking could start.
This year we were able to defeat any potential onslaughts of Black Rot with timely sprays of sulphur and Bordeaux mixture and there was not a wasp in sight, but just as everything was looking perfect . . . . BIRDS discovered the luscious grapes and set in for a feeding frenzy! We responded by constructing a scarecrow, but they obviously were neither crows nor scared. We made noisy mobiles out of empty beer cans, strung up yards of aluminium foil and old CDs, (we hoped that they disliked Céline Dion as much as we do!) and even netted some rows, but it was depressing to see how much they were able to chomp their way through in just a few days.
In the end, we calculated that we had only lost about 10% of the crop and Hervé was pleased with the quality of the grapes. His motto is that it is better to have fewer grapes, but healthy ones and he is confident that this year’s vintage will be very good.
As usual the vendange was a cheerful family event and once all the grapes were harvested there was pétanque to be played, a new baby to be admired, news to catch up on and of course plenty to eat and drink. The next day all the bird scaring devices were cleared away and we left the vines in peace to take on their beautiful tawny autumn colours. There are plans afoot for replanting this winter and a date has been set to cut down the encroaching trees in the wood above the top terrace in a bid to keep our pesky little feathered friends at a safe distance!