I have never felt so knackered on my birthday! Instead of going on a bike ride to Spain, to stay in a nice hotel and eat out, I responded to the SOS from Christophe of Domaine Puech
to help with this year's vendange.
We've had some truly atrocious weather this last week. Torrential rain pounded down, dumping several months' worth of rain over one day, so the ground was squelchy and soggy. The grapes had to be picked quickly before they started rotting in the still warm weather. I rushed out to buy some wellies as I'd thrown out all my old shoes recently and, call me vain and superficial, but I didn't fancy wrapping my shoes up to my knees in a bin bag and string.
|Domaine Puech grenache vines|
|Dinky vineyard tractor and trailer which had to be filled with grapes|
I joined the pickers several of whom were from our electoral team, for lunch after an hour's zumba (not sure that was such a brilliant idea as it turned out...). Everyone was gathered for an apero and then sat at one of those classic long tables under a huge tree to eat cold roast chicken, Mme Puech senior's excellent chicken liver pâté, and salad, with the Domaine's own olive oil and vinegar. It was simple and tasty. The talk was about the Scottish referendum vote, with general satisfaction expressed about the result.
After cheese and dessert, we drove to the vineyards. The vines were heavy with multiple bunches of grapes.
We joined a number of other pickers who were there to be paid. The rest of us were volunteers.
I had taken my gardening gloves and a bottle of water which proved to be an excellent idea as it was very warm and I sweated buckets. I had sweat dripping off my brow and onto the grapes. If there's a salty taste to this year's wine, look no further for the culprit! We worked the rows two people at a time, one on each side. I was paired with another volunteer who very kindly carried my bucket full of grapes to empty it into the tractor and thus gave me a short break.
|Christophe Puech's photo of me busy picking|
As you can see, it's back-breaking work. I spent a lot of time squatting to save my back, but of course I was forever having to move along the row so had to keep standing up. The next day, I rediscovered the muscles at the front of my thighs... with a vengeance.
At the end of three hours I looked like this:
|Note air of exhaustion|
Everyone knocked off at 5pm and I was invited to join the team back at the Domaine for some refreshments. I followed two tractor trailer loads.
|Tractor full of 1 1/2 hours worth of picked grapes|
|Another trailer full of grapes, picked by the sweat of our brows|
The grapes were emptied into this big container and pushed through the screw that separates grapes from stalks.
|Grapes being screwed :)|
On the other side of the wall, a machine separates out grape juice from stalks and pips, and this is collected in containers. I'm not sure what it's used for - compost I would think. I forgot to ask. If anyone knows, please comment below.
|Stalks and pips being dumped into containers|
Meanwhile, the juice is pumped into a huge vat. There was a lot of juice, and this vat was getting pretty full.
|Vat full of fresh grape juice|
Before heading home to a refreshing shower, Christophe called us volunteers into the cave and gave us each a case of six bottles of wine. This was a lovely surprise as I hadn't expected as much - a bottle perhaps - and I chose to have their red wine to herald in the autumn.
It was definitely a memorable way to spend my 51st birthday!
Sounds and looks like the perfect way to spend your 51st Birthday! You're looking great and I'll keep an extra tastebud lively and looking out for salt lol! Happy Birthday Sarah XXReplyDelete
Thanks, Anya. I didn't feel great but I scrubbed okay later to go out to dinner. I'm certainly feeling all that exercise today! :)Delete
That's on my bucket list - if he needs any extra hands next year, give me a shout! Sounds fabulous, although I don't envy you the mud. The last time I saw so much rain in so few hours was back in 2011 - the water was gushing straight off the roof because the gutters couldn't cope anymore. A bit like a Tahitian waterfall, but much less exotic.ReplyDelete
I had such romantic notions of grape-picking even though I knew it was reputed to be hard work. Not any more. Now I know it's just hard work, but I'll give you a shout next year if they need extra hands. :)Delete
Wasn't the rain amazing. What made me laugh is that they sent the kids home on Thursday lunch time and there wasn't a drop of rain all afternoon. :)
You too? It was Christmas all over again for mine, so they got yelled at for staying indoors when they could have gone paddling outside in the sunshine :-)Delete
PS Hope you had a great birthday. Did you showcase your gold lurex kecks?ReplyDelete
I had a memorable birthday, that's for sure... and totally different to any other! The kecks did not see the light of day, no. :)Delete
Ah picking grapes in the south of France - that romantic vision isn't quite as idyllic as I had thought: sore backs and sweaty bodies. But a crate of wine at the end and lunch on a long trestle table...sounds wonderful xReplyDelete
Yes, there were really good bits, and bloody hard work bits. Fits the expression: no pain, no gain. :)Delete
Oh Happy Birthday to you! You are such a great community person. I hope I would have been so good but think I may have opted for a lazy lunch.ReplyDelete
That looks literally like back breaking work.
Once at uni I cut asparagus, we had to lie on this long steel thing and cut away, was very bizarre
It's something I had always wanted to do, Jody, so I jumped at the chance. No one's ever asked me to help out before. :) Joining in the election campaign has had definite advantages.Delete
Definitely a birthday you'll never forget, Sarah. When I was younger I always hankered after helping with the vendage, but never quite managed it.ReplyDelete
Oh what a shame. I'm glad I had the opportunity, I must say. :)Delete
I'm not totally sure about this, but I think the mush of stalks, pips and skins is the marc from which eau-de-vie is distilled. If I'm right, it doesn't go to waste.ReplyDelete
Yes, you're right, I even remember them saying something about that in fact. :)Delete
The pips are used to make oil too.