Monday. Hot Monday.

That dream: the one that lots of people have…

Jesus. That was hot.

It is not easy work. It’s vine after vine. Shift to the next, clear the rootstock, thin the canapé, pull the trellis away, lift the trellis up, tie the trellis and slot the vine through so it’s all upright. Onto the next. Vine after vine, row after row in the searing heat.

Of course: this is what I came for and I’m loving it but I can see how others in the group – here for free lodgings and board – might see it as real hard work; because it is. I’m loving it.

That dream: the one that lots of people have of buying a rundown chateau with vines and doing it up. You can’t run a vineyard without a lot of help (not on this scale anyway) and to do that whilst renovating a large picturesque chateau is nigh on impossible. And if you leave the vines whilst you do the chateau you’re starting the vineyard from scratch again: with a three-year wait for decent grapes. Or at the very least you’ve got a forrest to trim into a vine.

Plus; you’ve got to find the right picturesque chateau … and a vineyard attached. And you’ve got to be able to afford it. Which is the hardest part. It’s not as expensive as you might think in France: it’s not London prices. But places like that eat money when you’re maintaining them… let alone renovating them in the first instance.

And wine ain’t easy either. You need the right plot in the right place – if you’re being fancy “le terroir”. The right weather, the space to make and then store the wine, the know-how to do it and the right help too. It’s a three pronged business: you grow the best grapes you can, then you make the wine, then you need to sell it.

Anyway. We stopped at 12.30 today – an early start again because the forecast was sun, sun, sun and it gets just too much in the middle of the day. We stop for lunch and then we head off, or in my case, try and learn some more. Once you cut 300 vines you kinda want to learn something new.

So after lunch I was helping Julien change the machinery behind the tractor. We take the spraying machine – which sprays carefully controlled, tiny amounts of copper, over the leaves as it passes down the rows.  In it’s place we are to attach the trimmer. It’s a big metal thing with knifes spinning round at the the top (one knife for the left vine; one for the right).

It hasn’t been used in a while so we clear the foliage. The painful kind. We need to alter the attachments so it fits on the tractor, so we’re banging the thing, still half in the bushes, with a big metal mallet and suddenly Julien starts twitching and slapping his back and saying “damn, man, the f—– <slaps back twice and contorts whilst looking for the culprit> got me”.

We see that there are four or five more who are out but they head straight back into the inner workings of the the trimmer. They were giants. We start looking for where they went and Julien sticks his head around the corner, into the vegetation, before I – obviously – had the following converstion: “Julien, Julien, shit”, “what man, what?”, he contorts and twitches, “shit, shit, where”, “there’s one right on you mate: there, on your neck!” {burst into laughter}, “What? You *+&£, man, don’t do that”.

We eventually find there are only about five of them and I flush them out with water and we get the thing on. I learnt a lot and it was a good laugh.
And a good day on the vines.

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Spraying the vines – looks like a bit of a weird machine, lets face it.

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Sunflowers above Carsac-De-Gurson, Bordeaux

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Julien and his dog, Raoul

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