Harvest Day One

This may be a slightly wobbly posting, as I learned a new taste sensation this evening.  I am again staying in the “dortoire de luxe” chez Domaine Anne Gros – and one of the real treats is Madame Gros’ cooking – not only every day for lunch with all the vendangeurs, but at night, for dinner, with the other guests lodging here (two others, now, but expect three more tomorrow).  Witness tonight’s dinner: a puréed soupe légumes (all from her own garden), which is served with a good dollop or two of crème fraiche and a scattering of grated gruyere, then home made paté with a salad (all lettuces and herbs from her garden), then cheese, then crepes fresh made (a foot-deep stack of them) which could be filled with a variety of confitures, all home made.  Oh, and some gateau cassis, home made, left over from lunch.

But what’s really done me in  is something known as a Nikita, as it seems Kruschev rather favoured it when he visited France, namely, a glass of cheap and cheerful red wine with a good slug of cassis.  I was doubtful too, but it’s good.  Madame keeps box wines for serving with lunch and dinner, the one at the moment is vin de pays de l’Aude, something or other Ulysse, a merlot.  Cassis is one of the Burgundian specialties, look for the one from Nuits St. Georges, or in a pinch from Dijon.

I had two.  After a hard day’s work.  And I am no longer feeling pain.  Bliss.

The crew is a little different this year – many of the family and friends are not here, but will be over the weekend, so we have only 20 folks, most of them 20 years old plus or minus, who came through Manpower or similar agencies.  Chatting with them I gather unemployment is as big a problem here as in England right now.  But Guillaume is here again, who is relentlessly cheerful and talkative and keeps us all in spirits.

Weather perfect – warm, sunny but enough cloud to keep it from getting too uncomfortable.

We began with the Echézeaux, same as last year.  The grapes are very ripe and healthy, hardly any pourriture, not like last year when it was bad, but it’s been a dry summer, I suppose that has helped.  And best of all, every now and again I have caught a whiff of that lovely smokey scent which sometimes turns up in the nose and palate of the wines.

Got that all done mid afternoon then began the Vosne Romanée lieu dit Les Barreaux – this is the vineyard which is sloped steeply upward to the south, good stoney soil.  The grape clusters are particularly small – small grapes, small clusters, often multi-clusters from a single stem, hell to harvest (locating, then cutting then extricating all those itty bits without knocking off or crushing grapes).  Also met my first Pinot Beurot grape – you may recall I encountered this in wine form at Mischief and Mayhem (see the article  Conditions).  I had left some clusters behind on a vine because they were still quite rosey and translucent – which for Pinot Noir would mean deeply underripe.  Someone called me on it, and we asked Elodie, who said they were Pinot Beurot (the Burgundian for Pinot Gris), and to harvest them.

We didn’t quite finish it, I heard Pascal say that when it was done tomorrow we were going to start on the Bourgogne Rouge.  Both vineyards today had been recently ploughed, I think, the ground quite soft and fluffy underfoot – barring the rocks, of course, and the odd thistle.  You would think harvesting uphill might be easier – not SO far to bend over – but no.  It helps immensely if you remember to pull in your abs before you bend over, or at least when you remember after, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to keep your abs tight when bent double.  Try it – get up out of that chair and try it.  Something about bending over nose to knees makes you want to puff out your abs, but the back is helped a lot if you can keep them tight.

Between that effort (semi-successful) and a lot of stretches my darling osteo taught me (stretch hamstrings three different ways, then stretch the bum – yes you can!), I’m not too uncomfortable tonight.  See how I feel in the morning.

I did not take the camera into the vineyards today – last year I could tuck it inside my shirt, above my waistband, and it was safe, but this year I’ve lost too much weight, it would just fall down the leg of my jeans.  But I did take some photos back at the domaine, after we were through, and Pascal and Elodie and Jean-Luc were cleaning up.

And you know I cannot resist a handsome tractor… That’s Pascal, by the way.  (J’adore un beau tracteur.  Et ça c’est Pascal.)