The harvesters make a constant thrum, even at night. Everywhere, the Merlots are coming in.
People are euphemistically calling this a “complicated year.” The dreaded Plasmopara viticola (mildiou) hit the Merlots hard. Some vineyards were turned into deserts. Here’s a single, desiccated plant. Imagine 25 acres. This microscopic “pseudochampignon” arrived in 1878, on the heels of the phylloxera insect – the 19th century import from my stateside compatriots that decimated almost all the vineyards in France.
Fortunately, our Merlot parcels were only affected partially.
Unfortunately, you can’t make good wine with affected grapes.
So it has been a painstaking snipping affair for the past month. Every morning John and I carry a bottle of water and our little vineyard scissors up the hill and cut away the affected parts as carefully and quickly as possible. We try not to ruminate. When John ruminates he cuts off a healthy bunch. When I ruminate I cut my fingers. Mostly, aware of the power of intention to affect an outcome, we try to focus on the positive. Out with the bad, keep only the delicious.
The reject clusters drop to the earth and the dog and the wasps feast. We slog on row by row, a couple of hundred meters a day, praying to finish by harvest, coaxing the healthy clusters to duke it out for just a few more weeks.
In this “complicated year” the word on the vine is that it will be a great vintage for those not affected by the mushroom. It was a sunny summer and a sunny, dry September. The healthy grapes are mature and beautiful.
Our oenologist came for her pre-harvest checkup yesterday and evaluated our work. “Clean,” she pronounced. “It will be a great year, un grand cru. It’s done. You can stop.” We beamed and breathed relief. “Done!”
But I’d left my scissors up in the vineyard, and when I went back to fetch them a scene from “Poltergeist” flashed before me; that scene when the exorcist pronounces the house clean….
How did we miss them? Two more rows to go. I’m sure my groans were heard in the other valley.
A few hours later, it’s not the exorcist I hear, it’s my mother. Now there’s a woman who knows when something is clean.
Just in time. Merlot harvest tomorrow.