“Rendez-vous 7:00 am, top of the hill, vieilles vignes.” We’ve hardly begun and a thunderstorm breaks loose. “Lightning overhead, keep your snippers away from the wires,” we warn our neighbors as they arrive. No novices they, kitted out in professional rubberwear. I’m soaked and cold in ten minutes.
Lightning, generosity, helping hands, ancient roots. Thus begins l’Esprit de Jeanne, Rosé 2015.
A team of twelve to start, including Genevieve’s friends from INSEEC in Bordeaux: Victor of France, Astrid of Germany and Kela of Hawaii. We are heads down, wet and serious until Henri arrives with his own solution to working in a downpour.
Suddenly the rain is benevolent, and we wonder if we should all strip and work in our underpants. The idea of a grape picking nudist colony revives our energy, and at lucky thirteen, many hands make light work.
Part of the fun is chatting as we snip. Damien says no one has hand harvested in this commune for decades, and José pipes up enthusiastically he’s wanted to do this for years.
At mid morning we pause for croissants and coffee in the shelter of the cabane in the middle of the vineyard. These old stone structures were built in the days when fields were laboured by oxen and they (and their master) needed a place to rest at night.
Then off to the winery with coffee and sweets for John and Aurelien who are feeding the press. We ponder the Rosé conundrum: how to press gently enough for flavor without absorbing the “green” taste of the stems, but hard enough so we get sufficient juice? Perhaps one day we’ll figure this out, but that day was not today.
At noon we think we’re done and I send the tired, celebrative team off to warm showers. But back at the tank John and I discover we’re still short. We’re hit by a wave of frustration, disappointment and fatigue. And how can I ask these dry and clean young folk to go back to the field?
Victor is napping on the couch as I whisper the problem to our children – family will get back to work but I won’t ask the others, it’s just too much. But there from the couch comes the first, sweet, “I’ll help!” And Astrid and Kela jump with enthusiasm. So at lunch we’re surrounded by valiant soldiers ready to go back into battle. But again, Henri puts it all in perspective – “what else are we going to do this afternoon?”
So, back to the vines. The rain has stopped and this time I allow myself to relax, savour the moment, and enjoy the clowns.
When the little wagon is full, we all feel like Astrid, bless her heart, who said it was all too fun and too short. No one wants this special day to end, and we pelt the parting wagon with every last cluster we can throw. “Just one more!”
We accompany the load into the winery, and our hearts skip a beat as John and Victor heave the last, heavy cagettes. It’s been a roller coaster day, why should things be simple now?
But when the press door closes for sure, and the beautiful juice starts to flow, the team gives a little jig of joy. After months of work and worry, the Rosé grapes are safely tucked away – clean, cool, delicious.