Wednesday 22 February 2023


In three words: SO. MUCH. BETTER.

— than last year, the hell year, the what didn’t kill you bloody well tried to and probably would have managed but for the sensor on the truck that goes ‘buhbuhbuh’ when you cross the white line so you’re still here!-year. 

And what a year it’s been! 2022 I mean. No space to make wine until July, no space to live until October. It seems winemaking has more in common with childbirth than you might think in the way evolution has trained us to remember the highs. Imagine if not! There would be very little wine. Meanwhile, this year I’ve made a fuck load. 60HL = 6 thousand litres = 8 thousand bottles if all goes to plan, which requires me to find the place to stock the bottles like, now.

Another logistical problem you say? Gee whizz what’s new! Well this year I moved cellar 1 month ahead of harvest (instead of 3 days before) plus I had to build a wall! Nothing like finishing a building project the night before the morning you leave for your first grapes to make you appreciate the next month on the road.

Some other big differences:

— I ate!

— I only made two trips alone.

— I made friends!

— I now know it takes me 1h12m to unload 1.6T of Colombard on my own.

People cooked for me!!!!

— I did maybe only one decuvage as opposed to all.

— My press was outside and my tanks are stacked 7 pallets high and my new siphon is very thick and 5m long*.

— I did my first not-failed débourbage!

— Thanks to all those pallets I have been able to harness the powers of gravity which for the first few hundred litres means there was time for dancing while the siphon did the soutirage.

— I am a better driver.

— I am a better ratchet-er.

— I cried only twice.

— I did zero long macerations and think my future lies in the ease of the direct-press.

— I did my first co-ferment of red and white.

— I tried doing three press in one day but stopped before I almost died. 

— I am talking in the ‘I’ but I was practically never alone. 

— Harvest happened to the soundtrack of Flemming Dalum.

— I bought 9 tonne.

In ish chronological order: it hailed icebergs the night before I went to pick up the same Carignan on 19 August I had just pressed in July after a 10 month maceration. This, plus the fact harvest was three weeks in advance (and that Carignan is normally a late bloomer?) = time travel! So I picked it 1/2 1/2 with some just-underripe Bourbulenc and macerated the red in the juice of the other, thank you to Anna and Nick and Jude for help with the direct and first press! Neringa and friends for the second. I did this trip alone and I felt free as a bird waking up from the zombie slumber of a winter sleep, which is a mixed-metaphor or evolution on speed, but you get the picture = RELIEF TO START, RELIEF TO LEAVE. 

Round 2, 3 days later: Xarel·lo y Macabeo, picked at 11% 23 August with good friend Aaron and new friend Kara, who we picked up in Spain. Harvest was done hungover! Too much drinking the night before at the pool! Yes, pool. Cool! I was in a stress because we lost the car key, and by 'we' I mean me. Kara counted out 1.5T of grapes counted in cash because my brain is a sieve through which numbers slip. We took 11 hours driving back, hesitated to stop for lunch at Ville Mas, instead sat in gridlock traffic burning gas. Aaron drove practically the whole way, you are amazing Aaron even if you disagree with de-stemming (Xarel-lo for no principle other than I'd already borrowed Aurelien's thing). Landed late, unloaded, left the grapes to chill in the night air while we ate gas station canned olives (Spain!) and drank holiday-prolonging beers.

26 August Kara and I do a same-day aller-retour of 562 km to pick up the same Cinsault as last year which sucked, but is what it is, and what the negociant is is a chauffeur. There was man-splaining and machoism and much apologising to the harvest team who started at 7 and were still picking under a 15:00 sun. I had a hornet-swollen hand and we forgot the watermelon. Vinification went the same as last year because I liked last year’s: half direst press, half infusion.

Mauzac came next. Thirty Aug. Underripe. Like, green. Changed parcel twice = I paid practically double hours for the team and almost lost the deposit on the truck after a situation with a rock (not me). Stacked 1.7T, un-stacked 1.7T, and re-stacked 1.7T from same truck. Learned negociants should arrive with their own scale to prevent having ever to do this again! Macerated whole-ish except for not so whole after jumping on them to make them fit. Currently fermenting in Andrea's blanc barrels (with some Grignolino) to take the edge off. Big thanks to Rita for taking all the edges off.

Grignolino, Piedmont, Italy, three September and already at 14% when I get the call to ‘come tomorrow’ even though ‘coming tomorrow’ means that by tonight I need to have found a truck to rent and someone to drive 1,000+ km with, which I haven’t yet, not to mention that when I visited these vines in July I thought I’d broken the tradition and language barrier explaining that I wanted the call at 12%. Here’s hoping there’s a market for big Italian barrel wines made in — Auvergne?? The trip in numbers: 3 x pizza + 1 for the road to be eaten cold at home, 1.69T. Pumped tyres once, tanked three times, tunnel costs 80e return, drove the last two hours alone. Times listened to The Mix: many but exact number unknown. I arrived home at 3 in the morning and a friend came to meet me and drink and unload! 

Colombard, de Remi-P. Nine September. Called him asking if he had any red, said no but 8T still of this, said I’d call him back. My second, and my last trip alone! Remi’s the best. You arrive, you eat, you drink, you actually sleep. Next day your pick will guaranteed be done before 10. I was a bit stressed because I found people were pulling grapes and not cutting while I knew I had to leave them en caisse for at least a day before I could liberate the press. But arriving young, a girl, with a rented truck, I was too afraid to say anything (so at home, with things to prove, unloaded the truck myself which is how I know it takes 1h 12 to unload 1.6T alone). In the end I left them in caisse for THREE days because I was busy coaxing the Mauzac not to hurl itself over a bridge (this was where I tried to press three times a day but stopped at two / chose life) which no one tell Remi yet, please. Thank you, thank you Maureen for reading this article and arriving at this particular moment of need! 

Boudes! bébé Boudes and her annual 10 caisse of sweat and blood and love, my best, my home-grown, saved for last. Steak — grilled, friends, a bouquet and a bottle of Boudes twenty-one. (Plus a rainbow when we got home).

And so with love to everyone who helps and co-creates and is there for me, and with my sincerest gratitude: thanks.

Anna * Anne * Aimé * Aurélien * Agnès * Aaron * Freddy * Germain * Kara * Maureen * Norbert * Nick * Neringa * Neringa's friends * Jude * Rita * Victor and all my vigneron: Remi * Xavier * Salvador * Genévieve * Edourdo: MERCI GRACIAS GRAZIIIIII

*so yeah, still no pump. 2023 here I come.

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