“You go in, decanter in hand, put the decanter under a tiny tap, turn the handle and out pours vin. Extraordinarily fun – remarkably dangerous.”
I call him Brandeau, or Marlon or “connard” (I’m not telling you what that means!) because he’s a lad and that’s the name of the vineyard. Anyway. I’m back.
I love the place. I want it. Or at least something like it.
I’ve come back following the most ridiculous week away travelling up the other side of Bordeaux. I’ve been to some of the most prestigious chateau in the world but I have to say I’m glad to be back here amongst the vines, with the tractor and the… wine.
It’s early mornings with a lot of hard, physical, work with just a little break to get a croissant and a cup of wine down you, before more hard, physical work. Then we have lunch, which is normally something like a quiche with salad and… wine. The other helpers (like me they’ve signed up to a website like workaway or Helpx to come and volunteer here) go off for the rest of the day or chill out.
I have a little siesta and then jump on the tractor for a few hours or help label and pack some bottles into boxes and then onto palettes or help with one of the other items on the evidently endless list. It’s different for me than the other workers: they want a place to crash and some food in return for 6 hours work a day. I, in contrast, want to get as involved as I can. I want to learn: how to look after vines, why they behave in different ways, the biological structure, the processes of viniculture. I want to learn how to make wine: terroir de bouche. I help as much as I can. I want to learn from him. And we get on well. And he needs the help.
Oh. And I built him a swing. On a tree. Like the tree on his bottle. Because I’m a nice chap. Shame I’m not a brilliant swing builder.
At about 8 we have dinner – it’s always bloody good (especially when I get involved, obviously… I was “professional” bloody chef don’t you know! Sort of). Sophie, Julien’s girlfriend has just opened a restaurant bar about 15 minutes drive away – she’s left a job in a Michelin star restaurant to open it. She’s lovely and doesn’t abuse me much about my terrible French. Apparently saying English words in a mock French accent doesn’t count. So the food is superb. After dinner a bit more wine and off to bed.
Most of the vino is from the tanks in the chai. These tanks are more than ten-feet high. You go in, decanter in hand, put the decanter under a tiny tap, turn the handle and out pours vin. Extraordinarily fun – remarkably dangerous. Often we have others though. It seems winemakers swap wine frequently. It’s one of the perks. It’s a perk me want. But you can’t do that five times a week. You need to watch it. very rarely wine with the croissant, hardly ever at lunch, occasionally after exactly 5pm.
When I first got here I couldn’t believe the size of the vineyard and what needs to be done on it, the size of the challenge. This feeling still remains. But it’s seriously cool. There’s always something to do. And that something is always different but let’s just say I’m getting pretty good now on the old tractor. In fact: I’m on to the new one. You don’t even need to remove the bonnet to attach the jumper cables… just turn the key and it starts… amazing. I do like the old one though! Because I’m an old man and a little boy at the same time and it feels like I’m playing the role of the grumpy, tutting, farmer.
So unfortunately I’m off. Onwards on my travels and away from Bordeaux.
There’ve been tears (I turned up with suncream in my left eye and I just couldn’t stop crying out of it – I was thinking I’d tell them my dog had died or something because I didn’t know the French for suncream), there’s been a lot of hard work, a little too much boozing, and a hell of a lot of laughs. It will be a month I’ll never forget. And the next time I have a bottle of Grand Vin de Latour ou Margaux or Mouton Rothschild ou Chateau Brandeau I’ll think back to it with a lot of fondness. Hahaha!! Yea right. Well, maybe the Chateau Brandeau… I’ve got a boot full of the stuff.
A lot of crap happened in the last year. This month: I’m glad. Good riddance to the old ones. Onto the new.
It’s been special. I’ll be back. And sooner than I though… I’m back for harvest early October.