Last heard of I cheerily said that the next installment would be all about working in the vines. Armed with my usual enthusiasm and the thought that this can only be good exercise in the depths of winter when too much sitting is often a problem, I resolutely helped for a couple of days. All that I can now say is there is absolutely zero to blog about pulling canes out of pruned vineyards.
I had good intentions of taking photos of my two smiling workmates, Michèle and Sylvette with the chateau in the background, frost on the canes – all very bucolic. In fact it was so bitterly cold I couldn’t take off my gloves and I was too worried about dropping my phone in the mud. We grimly soldiered on doing what must be the hardest job of all in the vineyard, yanking at twisted, whip-like branches, conversation reduced to grunts and moans and the occasional cry as a cane flicked across our cheeks. This is a job that has traditionally been done by woman – men pruned and women slogged away doing the menial jobs. I have even tried to research why this might have been the case for so long. Very little is written about such an uninteresting topic but I did a read a sociologist who suggested that pulling out the canes was the equivalent of cleaning in the vineyard and naturally considered a woman’s work. Things have changed of course over time although I suspect there are still more men than women doing the interesting stuff. I also must admit that I pitched in for two days only before Wilfrid took pity on me and I retreated to the warmth of the house.
However, last week I volunteered again along with Michèle, Wilfrid and Dominique to help finish off the job. As luck would have it was the wettest day in weeks and I slithered up and down the rows, water draining into my boots. It was interesting to see though that our two male companions really didn’t find this sort of work amusing – much complaining and grumbling could be heard!
With all the machinery now available to work in the vineyards one would hope that someone would invent one to do this mindless work and that is exactly what turned up at our property this week. Drawing a small crowd of very curious neighbours and wine maker colleagues, the new contraption moved down the rows pulling or rather wrenching out the canes. One row took less than ten minutes – the equivalent would have taken me at least an hour. It’s not very gentle and there’s quite a bit left to clean up afterwards but it is progress and if there is area in viticulture where progress is needed it is indeed here!
Work in the vineyards has of course not really occupied that much of my time and mostly I have been getting the chateau ready for a new season with a very special break in New York to visit our eldest son. I’ve managed to incorporate some fabulous American cakes into my tea room menus tasted at the MoMa .
We opened at the beginning of March and although we’re not yet brimming with tourists it is fun to see new and old faces again. To mark the occasion we have a new sign at the top of the drive and Wilfrid’s grandmother’s paintings have been lovingly hung in the new gallery/upstairs corridor.
And speaking of things new, here’s a glimpse of our redesigned labels for the 2014 vintage of Margot, Lulu and Classique wines. Pierre put in a lot of time and effort to rework the existing version and the result is a younger, fresher label which already seems to be a hit.