Tuesday, 27 December 2022

The shit a girl's gotta shovel to make a bit of wine

10 July

This is it. This is where I will need to make wine if I want to make wine in one month and quelque jours that will turn out to be only 8 jours. This, to a glass half-full kinda person, is the best option. This, to me, a glass with a hairline crack kinda person, is Can I give up yet? 

Context: I have given up more or less every other week for the last three years.

*


10 July, later

The human mind set on survival will do what it takes to survive. This includes self-delusion. This makes my self, delusional. I have been driving nor more than one hour when I decide it is Possible. That it’s Not That Bad. I decide to engage the mission. 

I am on the way to the Ardèche for the recycling. With Stefana and Andrea’s old plastic intercallaire I'll have somewhere to stack the last half of the bottles from 2021 I couldn't bottle because of lack of storage and that I need to bottle ASAP in order to empty my tanks now that I know I will be making wine in one month and 7 days.

Below is a picture of Andrea and Stephana's first wines, side by side. Above is a picture of my intercallaire for those of you who don't know what they are.

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14 July

I am back from the Ardèche and dirty and tired after a day of trips to the déchet and now that reality has set in I am not delusional but depressed.

*

15-16 July

Winemaking is a good activity for depressed people. There is generally something to do which leaves less time for being depressed. For the next two days I have bottling. Team 1: Rémi, Aimé, Aurelien: I love you. 

Team 2: Gabin, Antoine, Marion: I love you. 

Instagram, which found me team 2 when I couldn't find anyone I actually knew: I love you.

*

17 July

I am back to being depressed and beg team 2 PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can they help me and they can! I love them all over again! We are four and in one day we clear the outside space, the inside space and most of the stable, not pictured, because I was too depressed to take the ‘before’.

*


18 July

I receive this message.

Context: I have not had a house since 22 August 2021.

Context: I have been searching for a cellar since March 2022.

Context: by 'cellar' I mean 4 walls and a roof with water and electricity. Oh, and easy enough truck access with space to leave pallets of bottle deliveries outside because I don't have a forklift to bring them inside but who am I to dream?

Context: as of 17 July 2022, so yesterday, I have spent 14 hours of life emptying, covered in, and breathing in shit and illegal insulation fibre! in order to create a cellar.

Context: I do not know Raymond. My customs officer put us in touch because apparently he is a 'big deal' and might be able to help.

Reaction 1: Are you fucking kidding me?

Reaction 2: I respond with a politely worded version of Are you fucking kidding me?

I’m at the river for a swim so I swim. 

Context: since 22 August 2021 if I wanted a shower I needed to use someone’s shower. In summer, I'd swim. 

*


19 July

The floor is power washed. The walls are power washed. The ceiling is power washed. I lay out pallets to estimate how many tanks will fit = how much wine I can actually make. We paint. 

‘We’ is me and N. We are at his house. N. and A. are the people who have saved my a**.

After months of deliberation I decide my négoce name will be Abracadabra. The A is for that. Wine is magic and apparently it helps to know a little magic to make wine.

I am not an anarchist, I studied law. 

Raymond hasn't responded. I call. 

*


20 July

To anyone in the future who will ask me why I didn't get around to buying a pump I tell you this: I will be busy for the next two days thwacking fifty year old cow shit from the floor with a crowbar. 

*



21 July

This diary is based on true events and faithful to dates because that's the point of the piece. Here is a screenshot I  saved. You will note the date. I must have been feeling ironic. 

Have not heard from Raymond. Have decided not to bother anymore with Raymond.


*


26 July

This is where the doors will go.

*


27 July

I finished clearing the stable and start moving the bottles we bottled earlier this month.

Taking bottles from the intercallaire at point A and putting them into crates and putting crates into van and driving to point B and unloading crates and emptying into intercallaire at point C is not as different as it literally is from crowbarring cow shit.

Context: a crate takes 15 bottles.

Context: there are 1,875 bottles to move.

Context: that is two of these stacks.

I already miss my garage.

*


29 July

Perfect timing for a trip to London!

In London, people laugh politely at the cow shit story.

In London, we are looked after like royalty.

This is the second time in two months I’ve been invited to present my wines at a tasting for Auvergne wines. 

The wines I present were not made in Auvergne!

Context: As of this moment I have made a total of 60 litres of Auvergne wine.

Question: Do grapes brought back 600 km round trip and vinified in the Auvergne count as Auvergne wine?

I feel like shit. 

(Thank you Gergovie Wines).

*


3 August

This is where the doors will go. 

*


3 August, later

HERE ARE THE DOORS!

*


3 August, still later

Luckily for everyones lives, I had no part in fixing the doors and the frame.

I was power-washing the stable floor and the walls.

It was A's idea to disinfect everything with a wash of essential oils. 

Here is N treating the wood in the chai with the wash.

I thought this a brilliant idea, thank you A.


*


4 August


I start sawing the wood for the wall.

Context: there are two weeks left until I get my first grapes.

Context: I must saw each plank to size. With a hand saw.

Result: I will receive an angle grinder in November for my 34th birthday.

*


7 August

THIS IS WHERE THE CHAI WILL GO!!


*


9 August

You may remember that I changed cellar last moment last year. As in, three days before harvest. 

Question: Is starting construction on a cellar one month and 8 days before harvest progress?

Anyway, today I rented a truck and recruited a friend of a friend and we moved all my stuff. The garage is empty but for 5 barrels, that other stack of bottles and a tank of carignan I pressed beginning of July.

Here goes my press! 


*

10-13 August 

Perfect timing for a trip to Italy! Or at least better than the rest of the year because for the rest of the year I didn't think I'd need the grapes I put off visiting.

Here's me, living my best life.

Here's my shirt, living its own life.



*

14 August 

Back from Italy. I have successfully taken three days of summer holiday. Three days of Italo disco, vitello tonnato, pasta, spritz e pizza. The Grignolino is small, but healthy. I am relaxed, if extremely caffeinated. 

*


15 August

Still sawing planks.

Context: This space is temporary. Like one year temporary. 

*


15 August, later

I use the wood off-cuts to level the pallets.

Context: the floor rock. It is not smooth, not level, nothing is straight. Tanks need to be level so the liquid line is straight. Any un-levelness at the bottom will be magnified at the top. It takes many hours with a level and a mallet to pile the pallets as level as possible. 

Exception: it's true this photo is not faithful to the date but if you look closely you can see the pallets are wedged both top and bottom. In the end this is a bad example because when I filled this tank and went to close the chapeau, the chapeau didn't' fit because the tank had warped because it wasn't level because I failed.

Explanation: the tanks are so high because, like I told you, I don't have a pump.

*


16 August

Reinforcement! 

While I saw the L A S T T T T   P L A N K S these guys make an awning for my press, because I will press outside. 

*


16 August, later

Naturally there is a nesting pair of swallows perching directly above my newly placed tanks. Naturally my activity should not disrupt their activity because they were here first. Naturally they will need a window through which to come and go. Naturally I am very happy when they fuck off due to all the naturally produced CO2 :)

Their eventual departure doesn’t change the fact that there is a chicken coop directly above the chai and the fact the floor is old and that shit and feathers fall down into the chai and that therefore I will always need to cover the covers of my tanks.

I will be happier than I think with the window though. It gives light. I will go through vinification and beyond without electricity. As in, no light.

*



Today is the last day. Tomorrow I will leave for my first grapes which are the same carignan that I pressed in July this year. Today it hails, like, grave. I am worried what these fist-sized ice bombs will do to my car and fibre tanks. Everything, including the awning, survives!

Today Freddy will help me with last minute stuff. Stuff that is directly (finally!) connected to actually making wine. We clean crates and tanks. Set up the press. Clean, screw on and tighten vanne. Grazie mille x mille, Freddy.

We finish the outside kitchen which was dedicated a whole quarter of the space with which I have to make my wine and N. places the piece de resistance which bien sûr is the bar. We drink a white Léon Barral which places easily as a wine of my year.

For much of my adult life I've wanted an outside kitchen.


*

18 August


I pick up the truck, load it and go! It feels SO GOOD TO GO. It feels like I've been asleep all year. Harvest reminds me why I'm here.

Context: I can't put words to the stress I felt not knowing until July if I would have to skip a year. Wine is the only reason I tolerate, rather than love, France; and even then I ask myself regularly What am I doing here.

*


19 August

09:30: Remi's carignan and bourbulenc is loaded. Here's the boubulenc.

Later: harvest report coming soon.


**




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Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Up the apples and pears (stairs): a video guide to making cider



Another video-supported** how-to!

This time on making cider, in IV parts.


Pt. I


Pt. II


Pt. III


Pt. IV




— Combrailles, Auvergne

** For more Essential video-guides see:




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Friday, 17 June 2022

HELP! WANTED!

I’m looking for help this harvest and I’m asking anyone who’s (seriously) interested to write to me and I will write back with more. And yes two months before is maybe a bit late* but late is better than never: although never is also a possibility considering I still haven’t found a cellar. 


Simon says I'm a pirate without a boat. I say boat or no, the show must go on. 


Some other things you should know in the spirit of full disclosure: I am no good at sales (read below). Yes, I can take nice pictures but basically what you see is what you get. Expect zero frills. Expect late nights. If experience is anything to go by, things will go wrong probably more often than they go right. 


Your job description in the shell of nut: You will be making wine á la main which is not a French-ism for ‘artisanal’ but means exactly that: your only tools will be your hands (and your arms and your legs and your head and yes, I do at least have a press). 


If you are a city person like I was and want your rural idyll straw hat dreams crushed like I’ve had, come! But only if you really understand what I mean when I say +/- 6.8T of grapes will not pick, drive, carry nor de-cuve themselves oh, and the T stands for tonnes.


What kind of person should you be? You will need to be strong, both of body and of mind and you must. be. able. to. drive. 

(If ever a negociant tells you they don’t use machinery in their vines, ask them how many thousands of KM they make to buy their grapes). 


You must not be afraid of camping because you will almost certainly be camping! But whatever I can do, you can do too. I’m a wimp and I made wine in 2019 on crutches while living in a cave. Last year I managed without a shower. Remember: there is always someone somewhere doing worse off than you.


Please like cooking? Please understand that we will always be cleaning? For the rest there's a lot of drinking, schlepping and boring, repetitive tasks. No pump means the holy trinity of siphon + sweat + buckets and if everything goes to plan, there might also be stairs involved which gives you a picture of how practicality is not my best-fitting hat :)


If you’re the kind of person who can just get on with things without me having to explain everything — know that I already love you. Not that I don’t relish directing people (I don’t), it’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing either and will be busy figuring it out as we go along. 


Other desirable skills include: French! Maths! The can-do attitude that late at night I lack. If you’re not a problem-solver, please stay home. If you're a trained engineer take all my money and Pass Go. Sense of humour is a must! Winemaking is fun, but often it's not and it’s at these times you need to know how to laugh. 


So to re-cap. There will be long hours driving. There will be more things to carry than you can shake a stick at. When things go right it’s a miracle. When they don’t, we’ll have to do it again. I can promise you very little sleep, but rest be assured I have a good friend who makes great coffee. I've have another one who brews beer. You will be dirty, constantly, your body will learn to run off adrenaline effortlessly. You'll want to do everything you can to somehow capture in the bottle all this crazy energy. I mean I haven't quite managed this yet, but that's the idea.


I don’t like being a boss and I’m learning too, but — wait for the sales pitch — if you’re hands on, here’s your chance to have your hands in my 2022.


Too much?

 


Some deets:

  • Dates are from end-ish August to beginning October, with the last grapes coming in end-ish Sept.
  • I buy my grapes. There will be 4 trips. There will also be two actual harvests in actual vines in Auvergne which, oh yeah, is where I am. One in my vines and one in vines I share.
  • I appreciate you probably have a real life and you probably can’t stay for it all. We can talk! I am open to people on rotation, but let’s say minimum ‘stay’ shouldn’t be much less than 2 weeks.
  • See! What a boss! 
  • You will be fed and watered, and in exchange for your time you will get wine.
  • If you stay long enough, we can talk about you borrowing a tank and buying some grapes.
  • Bring sturdy shoes, a headlamp and your passport.
  • hfuellenkemperATgmailDOTcom


See you in T-two months!


*in my defence I already wrote about looking for an assistant du cave in January and you can re-read it here. 



F R U I T!

HOMEGROWN!
(PINOT)


                                                                                                  

         OLD  F R I E N D S! 

                         N E W  F R I E N D S!                                     

     
                                                                                                                            
         
BIG SMALL AND TINY P R E S S S S S ES

         

 BAD THINGS!        




      LAST MINUTE TYRE CHANGINGS

  
           
           OVER-FULL THINGS                                           
               

           LIVING IN A VAN-REALITIES                                    ENGINEERING 
                                                                
    

                                    RAN OUT OF SPACE, PLEASE HELP ME
                                                

      PRACTICALITY :)

PROCESSING THINGS


DIFFICULTY PARKING

 



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