Monday, 27 December 2021

2021 harvest report or: On moving cellar 3 days before harvest

Don’t! Though you don’t need me to tell you that. Something you might not have known however, is that for customs to give you the go-ahead for a last minute move you will need to give customs a serious reason for moving — and the end of a 10 year relationship ain't it. Have an earthquake or something. It’s how you feel anyway so technically you won’t be lying.

2021 was declared a viticultural disaster already in April. Frost, mildew, no grapes for sale anywhere in that order until August when yes there are grapes for sale but I don’t have a cellar. Or tanks! So no pressure but the new place I hadn’t found yet had to have a ceiling high enough for the new tanks I hadn’t found yet and Aimé, so you know: had I not managed to find any I would have blamed you for telling me I could do it.

From henceforth 2021 shall be known as ‘the Year of Thank You Thank You Jerome.’ Without you I wouldn’t have had a second press which would actually turn out to be the only one I own. 2021 is also Year of the Soutirage. Of late night manoeuvres and river (no hot water) showers. Of making double as much wine as I ever have, and by this I mean after combining everything I’ve made the last three times.

Harvest 2021 was a harvest where I had a harvest team cancel for rain that didn’t fall. I have never driven vans so big nor driven so much alone. It’s the first harvest where I’ve been member of a team as few as 3 (we took six hours but we picked 1.2 tonne). It is the year I made wine in a garage. In a milk tank. In a state of constant logistical panic. Mentally I broke down twice, smashed my car once, got halfway through transferring the same damn tank of Chardonnay thrice. I was in the south so much I half picked up the accent. I’ve developed a thing for ropes and ratchets. It’s amazing what you can do with nothing but a wine starter pack: ladder, buckets, thermometer, a broom, bug-light and a borrowed 10hl tank. I have Claire to thank for that.

My trip to Italy in three words: gas-station pizza; hell. I have four barrels of ex-Blanc for my Ardéche Chardonnay and the Rousanne, picked 23.09, is the only cuvée for which I have a name. Patrick tells me Carignan doesn’t ‘work’ in Auvergne, the team who picked the Gamay was high, I made my first ever full tank (Cinsault) and there’s a small one of Syrah, a very serious tasting wine. Home-grown from Auvergne there’s exactly 100L of Pinot Noir into which I put 2 caisse of Auvergne Chardonnay. I’ve insulated the garage by the train station with hay bales, though in the interests of sounding professional I refer to it as the ‘chai’.

In October I finally had a moment to back-calculate what I made and was pretty surprised to see it was six tonnes of grapes. So now I’m putting off doing my expenses. Numbers like these are the kind of thing you really want to have figured out before you’ve paid.

It was in 2019* that I learned you need a fuck load of people to make wine alone, and so a million trillion thanks to all the people this year who made mine. I shouted a lot this year. Here are some more before the end of the year but t’inquiette, of the more constructive type: 

  • Shouts to Café Clandestin! And in the same vein of staying alive: shouts to the engineer who engineered the rental vans to make that horrible noise when you cross a yellow line
  • To Manu for our days of triage and décuvage and pressurage and the trip to the plumbing store 
  • To the Directrice of “Domaine Andrea Calek” for making me promise to take density every day, check under every chapeau, for letting me press chez vous and for sharing with me your time, wood and hopefully, yeasts
  • Anto for all your advice, trading me wine and practically all my grapes
  • Jerome Saurigny for gifting me your press
  • Flo, for your determination to clean all the caisse
  • Magali for your energy! For our night in the van, for always wanting to jump in the press
  • To Lisa and Paul for gifting me my first 3 glasses! For braving the storm of fibreglass 
  • Aurelien: for your playlists and the box of glasses when my others smashed
  • Alex, Manu, Nadia and Max for lending me tanks
  • Thanks to my core team of advisors Patrick, Anto, Ralph and Remi for the 80 / 100 times you texted me back
  • To Alex and Vaughn for the first bottling of the year (a very reductive Gamay pét nat)
  • Our team for Boudes
  • Simon and Steen: EH BEH come get your Cinsault when het is klaar
  • Aaron: after Stefana, my stagier of the day! To you both: for the laughs! For that night we got drunk in Chass!
  • A mention for all the dinosaurs I’ve since burned as gas
  • To the guy in Beaujoalis who gave me money I didn’t have back in exchange for my leaking tanks
  • Henry for your patience this year doing what I know you didn’t like doing last year
  • Vincent Marie for lending and selling me tanks in my moment(s) of need
  • Geoffry for giving me a place to work, a room in which to sleep and for feeding me 

— and to Guy, Claire and Aimé: thanks to you guys I moved anywhere. Thank you for everything.

*Or, the Year I Made Wine on Crutches.


Monday, 13 April 2020

Andrea Calek

I call this dish,
Would you like more cream?
On my plate, meat.


Monday, 6 April 2020

Undocumented moments in the vines | Liage

Liage, not 'pliage' which is what I keep calling it thanks or rather no thanks to my memory bridge to bend > ballet > plié is one of those things no one writes about, is just another of those uncelebrated, undocumented moments in wine where 8 hours a day turn into 40 hour weeks bent down head down i.e.: labour, the manner in which basically I spend all my time so why don't write about it? and so I did and here it is: 545 more words to go on the thankless task of attaching the baguette to the wire with wire.

Liage happens after pruning and after you’ve pulled the wood which is simply the act of pulling the wood you've cut while pruning off the wires and which I'll write about later. It is, as I said, the name for the act of attaching your baguette (this is the honest to god technical term for the wood upon which one day very far away the grapes will grow) and it is this, as I said, that you must attach; assuming you have vines on wires. I’ll explain why now and this is to ensure everything grows evenly and not too densely in one direction and not everywhere like corruption and lonely people and plastic headed to the ocean because of two reasons and these are one: if you work with a horse or a quad-bike or a tractor you will break their arms, and two: to prevent acrotony.

Acrotony is a property of vines by which she will zap her sap down the baguette >>> to the last bud which will grow first, blowing all the vine's fruit-power and energy so out go people paid to spend their days ideally in the rain (this so it only cracks but doesn't snap) cajoling wood into long twists or bending them into arcs which is called 'l'arcure' the point of all this is to stop the flow or rather re-direct the sap with each crack to each of the buds which means FRUIT which is what we do this for but which, I must admit, can be hard to remember hence all the times I've 'quit' like when three weeks of liage in we were told 'There’s only 20 hectares to go' which for context I would like you to know means what was left was four times more than the biggest domaines I’ve worked for and we’d already done 15. Size, friends, is everything.

Liage also hurts. It hurts your back like all tasks head down bent over for days worth of hours do, my middle finger is four weeks later still swollen from feeding the wire and gripping the wood and quite blue, and it hurts your face when it whips you and my advice is don't do this when hungover or in a bad mood. On my first day maybe minute five it whipped me in my eye and it flashed through my mind that while I’m still being grateful I can walk again, how would I tell mom this time what’s happened is I’ve gone blind? But when I say it's thankless work don’t think I don't know it's Just Work that Needs to be Done that I think life's a peach or at least all harvest because there are more of these as of yet undocumented tasks I find gratifying like ébourgeonnage which isn't so bad and la taille which I like when you take the time for each vine because it’s the first time you see her again after you’ve rushed out hot with all her fruit rushed into the cold cellar in a rush of friends and drinking and people and drinking and late nights listening to the drip drip of the press rather than sleeping the whole crazy mad rush of everything at once necessary to transfer a year’s worth of energy into all that we celebrate in wine which is what we do it for, remember! and with all this going on it’s easy to forget to look back and say thank you, goodbye.


Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Etienne Thibaud | Domaine des Cavarodes

Savagnin merman:
dreads, oh sage jurasienne. 
Lune noeud donc on boit.

— Visit 10 March 2020. Cramans, Jura

(Photo and merman credit to Christina Rasmussen)


Sunday, 8 March 2020

Alice Bouvot | Domaine de l'Octavin

A gnome is a gnome is a gnome though hers are rainbow-minded not mould-hided, living their best lives in technicolour rather than forgotten somewhere at the bottom of the garden. If black-hats means home-grown: pizza-Ploussards and opera-curtain soft Trousseaus; this white-topped chorus represents team négoce, a colour-by-number medley of compass points singing in voices of sweet gravity Grenache and pithy Alsatian suns but also honeydew drops of far-south Muscat and pistachio-shades of Sylvaner in an orchestra that Alice, chieftess of insane harvest logistics and curl-haired cuve conductoresse, leads in whispers. 

— Visit 7 March 2020. Arbois, Jura


Thursday, 15 August 2019

Consider the sieve

Consider the importance of the sieve 
silver guardian at unapologetic gates restraining humble pasta and floaty bits in wine 
or don't—
and re-consider feet grape-deep in buckets


Sunday, 11 August 2019

On sales on souls

The funny thing is that for months I ignored the wine sitting downstairs unless there was a problem which when you consider the cuve was leaking and the heatwave and chapeau losing air there was frequently enough but even then I didn't regard it as ‘wine’ it was just there and we would take glasses from the tap and it was OK because it tasted like what it was: a basic red made in a shed with no running water fermented in plastic and exposed to plenty of air because we didn’t know about ouillage so there wasn’t much length but it did it must be said and others did say it had a delicate nose. 

But then we bottled and suddenly it wasn’t a worry it was wine it was a product and not only that but stock: a shed full of more wine than we ever had stacked quietly after the rush that is bottling on a pallet and in caisse and on the shelf there was wine  e v e r y w h e r e  it felt so much and we made it and it was ours and it was wine and now it also looked like wine and we brought it everywhere here this is it, here it is and we felt very rich. We weren’t of course rich, still aren’t, we are this year more poor than any year before, but we were rich in wine and in spirit and when we felt bad we could drink and this year has been very hard so we drank and anyway it wasn’t for sale, never considered it would be for sale because we made it for fun and for friends and for us and so we drank and we didn't count had never counted never knew never will know how many bottles we drank or made.

But then someone wanted to buy it and suddenly we started counting and stopped drinking and stopped giving because someone actually wanted to buy it and this was a surprise and at first we thought maybe a joke and because here was someone who I repeat wanted to BUY it and he wasn’t a fool nor family nor sympathetic friend this was business based on taste and we couldn’t believe it and just like that something had changed: the wine was no longer just for us for fun but a product for SALE and this goes to your head and like I said we started counting. Now it had a label and people saw it and they wanted it and it was us that had it and if we drank it then it would be gone and we were no longer naive and rich now we knew it had worth outside of us but suddenly poor, saving and stretching and counting and reserving and weighing because suddenly there could never be enough 
and there we were in our shed and we felt so rich and that we had so much.

(Thanks to Florence for the photo of our wine on a shelf in her new shop).


Thursday, 11 July 2019

On bottling in forty-two degree heat wedged between suitcases and an old fridge

I will write one day about the toothpaste factory twisting boredom of bottling which is a likeness I haven’t conjured up from behind my computer but one that struck me with the dull thump of anti-progress while actually bottling after which I couldn’t stop thinking about factories and empathy and all the people ever to have existed in such existential poverty and those who continue to do so. I have never thought more about industry and heavy duty machinery as I do nowadays working with people I would describe as more or less artisanal but it’s true, I do, so it's good that it doesn’t always make me sad when I think about factories but sometimes Wow cool like the time I drove via Champagne to Mars in the enjambeur of Dufour Charles and which I keep calling entrejamb meaning between-leg which makes the French laugh. There are other times too where I think Wow like when I’m scrolling through agricultural websites search term ‘cuve fibre’ and for sale I find tanks as big as concrete houses and I try to imagine how many grapes these need to be filled and how full France is of grapes and I can't which is the thing with industry: incomprehensible scale. But bottling doesn’t have to be in the controlled conditions of a factory it can also be in forty-two degree heat wedged between suitcases and an old fridge whose coiled back is thick with rust left as it was for years in a shed with the outside world clearly visible through the 1 cm gaps through its slats and not only visible but tangible, the heat pushing through and long-ago boiling the last eighty-odd litres of wine we’re finally bottling having only that morning secured the magnums brackets thank you Anders although I can think of a more exact of description of this than ‘bottling’ namely holding each mag up arm heavy to the tired déguster to catch drip by drip the liquid jam as you sit behind the fridge next to the suitcases amidst the hairy confusion of a million flies rubbing together their dirty feet as if gleefully at your misery and you are, you are miserable because in this heat you can’t eat, you can’t work, you can’t sleep, you can’t live and you tell yourself It's day eight of a wave of heat you just have to hang in there, It won't, you tell yourself, Go on forever but what if it does? What if we're at the beginning or maybe even already the middle of the end of the world and who cares which it is? why split hairs the flies are thirsty, the ants are thirsty and they are coming into the house to collect around the dripping fridge like elephants at a mud pool and humans around a lake.


Monday, 24 June 2019

Vincent Marie | No Control

Vincent Marie is not Vincent and Marie who are the Tricots and who I wrote about here but a gentle riot.
No compromise ni control, makes snapped guitar-string wines that crawl out of mosh pits bleeding magma and two black eyes in Volvic chai painted millennial conch shell pink.

— Visit 1 April 2019. Volvic, Auvergne


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Charles Dufour

Charles is energy to the power of 7: Epicure, Enthusiast, quietly cultivating vines and transmuting their spirit into wines that sun on ocean-ripples dance and shimmer as opposed to sun on fresh-waxed Maserati b*l*i*n*g from which you shield your eyes. Here, can I offer you another rice cracker? A cold shower? A perpetual reserve of forest asparagus we foraged together then turned into a salad we’ll blend with veg and seeds and other things and eat for the next three days? Welcome to Landreville, an alternative Champagne. 

What more can I say than most days being mostly lunch with crunch? On the Only Living Boy in Champagne I have: Inherited responsibility, buh-bye biodynamics cus 'I don't want to wake up so early’, no more single-parcel cuvées, pale hands blue pick-up big time generosity and a legally grey-area orange spritz. Further on our visit there's Aux Crueyrs de Vin, a Troyes institution, a '09 Puzelat, Julien Guillot's '17 Cuvée 910 drunk fast and blind which made all three of us scratch our heads and sing; an andouillette initiation, a pintade prince and a standout Coteaux Champenois star-fire wine (capers, sandalwood, Arizona desert dust) on fiercely pithy skins. Then there was more fowl for lunch and a '98 to end but before all this the once in a lifetime time I can say a Le Carton wine was drunk in Champagne (!) ditto that I took an unsupervised spin (!!) on a Soviet octopus mission to Mars vine sprayer and in conclusion bear with my five word monologue by way of answer to your question, 'But tell me, how did you find Champagne?'

Charles: disgorges my birth year. 
Me: Can we drink something red soon? 

— Visit 6-10 June 2019. Landreville, Champagne


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Harvest 2018: Aurélien Lefort

(very good)

— Auvergne, 14 October 2 0 1 8



Friday, 19 April 2019

Jan van Roekel

Jan or Jean nobody knows and nobody cares, it is what it is which I'll tell you is one hell of an explosive glacial melon pét nat of the finest china bubbles in Johnson’s² baby powder pink. What else? Well, what has always been is that Jan plays hard for the Jura team, believes in hip hop and that a better life is possible in France. One of the only Amsterdammers who doesn’t bike, the only one to visit us here twice and the person to look at my grapes and say “press” so the next day I did (thanks Jan). Furthermore director of tours from the swamplands North to Bojo's bastard salon Bojalien where, chez Romain, he’s been making Gamay since 15 in his cult-merch hoody softly beseeching #free(Olivier)cousin and is no joke big in Japan.

— Jan visited 11 April. Alba-la-Romaine, Ardèche

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