Turning Water into Wine

Tomorrow will be the start of the 2018 grape harvest at Morlanche. Our neighbours Brice and Lisa have been busy all year to make this the best vintage ever! And yes, the grapes look pretty promising!

 

 

A few days ago, last year’s wine was finally bottled – a necessity, as the vats need to be filled with the new grapes. This is the reward for all the work done in 2017 and for the constant checking up on the quality over the last 12 months. We think that they can be proud of themselves – the wine is extremely good – so sales can begin and feasts can continue!

Bottling at Morlanche

Lisa sealig the corks

 

But the big event for Brice and Lisa this year was the creation of a new vineyard on the hill opposite Les Sarziers on the way to Arlebosc. 5,300 plants were to be planted – approximately half red (Gamay), and half white (Marsanne and Roussanne) on roughly two acres of land.

 

Throughout the coldest and windiest period of the winter Brice measured out the terrain and planned the geometry of his new plantation.

Then in January and February the planting started.

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Everything seem to go according to plan …

… until the sighting of some rabbits (which for some reason seem to hold no interest for the chasseurs). So bamboo sticks and nets for each of the plants had to be purchased and put into place.

Then in the early spring the first leaves made an appearance and things looked promising. The wettest spring of the decade encouraged the plants to grow fast and steadily. Of course the weeds knew the same trick and were slightly better at it! This cohabitation, which is just about tolerable when it is raining, became a nuisance and later a problem as the summer drought and the high temperatures turned the soil of the vineyard into the equivalent of an airport runway. The vines started to wilt and gasp for water – even the weeds were ready to give up the ghost. We prayed for rain, but there was none in sight.

So Brice called for a desperate rescue plan. With no spring and no mains water nearby he had to find another way of getting the water to the plants.

And this was when the solidarity of the neighbouring farmers kicked in. One of them provided a water tank on wheels and offered the water from his pond that could be pumped into the container twice daily, another lent a tractor, which Brice learned to drive after a one minute driving lesson, and a third gave us access to his well above the vineyard, which could provide water by gravity. Still others (ourselves included) helped with the chore of manually watering the vineyard, using miles and miles of garden hose.

 

Brice and Lisa set up an app on a phone which beeped every 17 seconds, alerting us to move on the next plant. Each one got 2 litres of water and then another two on the return up the rows – a job that took two people seven hours, three days a week and needed to be repeated week. Fortunately, after about 20 days there was some rain – not much, but enough to relax for a bit.

In the last few weeks the temperature has dropped and we had some rain on Thursday – so the panic is over. What looked like a loss of 30% has turned out to be around 5%.

Oui, on a eu chaud!

So let’s cheer ourselves up and look to the vendange …. Santé!

Markus

5 Responses to “Turning Water into Wine”

  1. jarwillis Says:

    Our all-too-brief couple of hours ‘helping’ with last year’s vintage with these lovely people was a year and a day ago today! A very precious memory indeed. What a fascinating record of cooperation, determination and sheer hard work this blog entry is. They deserve all the luck in the world. James and Lesley

  2. Kate and Markus Webb Stuckelberger Says:

    Your contribution and enthusiasm was remembered by everyone (only a few minor injuries this year!)
    We harvested 873kg from the Morlanche vineyard up from 250 last year!

  3. Brice Says:

    Very very nice article (and the title, very well found …) !
    Thank you Kate and Markus for your presence and for your help so precious (as much as water!).
    And a very friendly hello to James and Lesley, you’re always welcome (and even though Lisa did a good job with dressings this year!)

  4. Vreni and Juerg Says:

    We think a lot of you at Morlanche and les Sarziers these days – our own grapes are ready to be picked now – the plant (only 1, as a house-pergola) seems to reward us for last year’s loss (frost in spring)! Equipped with only a small juicer, and one slightly bigger pot to drain the juice by steam, we proceed slowly. 1/3 of the freezer ist already full of bottles of smoothie, the first batch of sterilized juice bottled, and maybe 25% of the grapes collected … we try to eat as many as possible and give them away to neighbours and friends… As next I’ll have a try with making “Suuser” (naturally fermented juice in its first phase).
    Best regards from Vreni, Jürg and Martin, Mettmenstetten, Switzerland

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