A Clean Harvest – September 2018 8


The harvesters make a constant thrum, even at night.  Everywhere, the Merlots are coming in.

Gorgeous September day – La Tourbeille Vineyard – a sea of rows to clean

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.

an entire plant affected by mildiou

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. 

John snipping away

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.

Grape clusters with mildiou sections  to cost off

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.  

the last two rows

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.


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8 thoughts on “A Clean Harvest – September 2018

  • Carol

    Oh, Mary, what drama! Thank you for sharing it with us and I wish you and John everything wonderful for the harvest! With lots of love, Carol

  • Mary Borba

    What dedication, persistence, hard work and love for your vineyard and wines. Those of us who may have the opportunity to try this wine are the lucky recipients of everything your family has invested in this!!

  • Heather Forster

    So lovely to read this having seen the rose come in successfully!
    Can’t wait to taste this years wine – it will be an auspicious year for us so I am thrilled it is a good one! When will it be ready so you think? I will buy Tom & Lucy (recently married at Chateau La Tourbeille and had lLa Tourbeille wines at the reception of course!

    See you in November in London!
    With live & warmest wishes Heather

  • Caroline

    The resilience of a vineyard (& you both!). Lots of big smiles & hugs from CA, and congratulations on your grand cru 🙂 xo