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.

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