There are up to 5,000 vines in a hectare. By the way.
That’s it and I’m off again. On the tourbus.
I must admit I was a bit sad.
The first vines I’ve ever worked on make me think I struck gold. It was a beautiful but dishevelled, organic vineyard. The majority of the plots surrounded the wine-makers (En Francais: le vigneron’s) house., with a quite country road splitting off four more plots off to the east.
The “Sheep-shed” is the most northerly plot. It is just past a currently abandoned… sheep shed.
We were leaving having spent three days in that particular plot. We were raising the trellis, and therefore the vine, and trimming it of any useless shoots.
You are then about ridding the ground of the stubborn, mood-altering, thick-as-a-French verb book, American shoots. These are protruding from a bud attached to the rootstock, sometimes about 6 inches below the soil. So you’re digging down with your secateurs, often sat with the plant in between the feet and stamping at the turf next to the root-stock, getting more and more frustrated at your bumbling inability to get to the… root of the problem.
After you got the bastards you stand up and the final jobs is to untangle the big bush in front of you, so all the shoots are heading straight up through the wires in the trellis, and then you move onto the next. And hope there are no nasty Americans.
There are up to 5,000 vines in a hectare. By the way. And it’s so “organic” we even found a birds nest is one of the vines. And so organic that I was on the phone to my mum the other day and nearly stepped on a bloody snake. Big as your arm. On it hind legs giving it ‘that’. He won.
Another plot directly over the road from the winemakers cottage really is big. Or it seemed big until I realised the size of land a winemaker needs. As standard you’d have maybe ten or twelve hectares (a hectare is about the size of a football pitch). A big winemaker could have 30 or even 60 or 80 hectares of vines. To put that into context Chateau Brandeau – where I’ve been staying – has only nine hectares. In 2015, even as an organic vineyard – which generally results in a lesser yeild of grapes – produced about 35,000 bottles.
Why anybody would need more that 35,000 bottles of wine a year is beyond me. But I must admit I am slightly I’m intrigued to find out.
That is a huge amount and matches the enormity of the land, and the size of the task. And when even Juliens’ nine hectares is considered small. It would be daunting to any sane person.
He’s a mixture of totally laid back and completely in control. To me, albeit having known very few, he surely must be a properly up-and-coming “vigneron” – if such a thing exists. And although I might joke with him that he looks forty-five he’s actually ten years younger. He’s got a lot to teach, is “super-cool” and I’m lucky to have met somebody who, I suspect, I’ll know for life. His wife is talented and lovely and his daughter (who’s name lends itself to the Chateau’s most complex wine) is adorable and clever.
It’s a special place and I’ll be going back.