Vendange

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Friends of ours in the village whose family have been vine-growers for generations and have taken their grapes to cooperatives last year began to make their own small-quantity, high-quality red wine.  Unlike their other grapes which are picked by machine, grapes for this wine are hand picked from two small vineyards.  We helped them pick the grapes last year, and they have now done the assemblage (the mixing of the wine resulting from the different varieties of grapes) of last year’s vintage.  It will be several months before that is ready to be bottled.  It’s a long process!  But it’s one that we feel privileged to be a small part of and to follow. 

Today a dozen of us picked the Syrah grapes for this year’s vintage.  Luckily the weather was much cooler than it has been for the last few days, cloudy with a cool breeze which made it much easier to work.

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This is a small parcelle of vines and took just a morning’s work, but it was tiring.  Years ago, in the youthful memories of some of our friends, the vendange would go on for weeks, with hand-picking day after day, morning and afternoon.  I don’t know how they managed to do it, but for four hours today it was fun, chatting and joking in French and Occitan as we all moved up and down the rows of vines.

When we got home we were certainly ready for lunch, so I was glad I’d prepared it yesterday: lamb with tomatoes and capers – the recipe is on my Food from the Mediterranean blog.

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PS you can see the machines that are used in the bigger vineyards on my last year’s grape-picking post.

>Different ways of picking grapes

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Depending on the terrain of the vineyard and the quality of wine which will be made from the grapes, there are different ways of harvesting. In a large, flat vineyard where the grapes are intended for ordinary quality wine, to be taken to the cave cooperative to be added to grapes from many other vineyards in the area, grape-picking machines are used to save time and labour. They look huge when you meet them on the road, as we often do at this time of the year because they travel from one vineyard to another during the vendange, towering above the cars. They look big among the vines too, because they have to straddle a row of vines to remove the grapes. In small parcelles of vines, especially on hillsides, it would be impossible to get a machine in among the rows, so these grapes are usually picked by hand, as are any grapes that will be used to make high-quality wine because this minimises the damage to the grapes before pressing.

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We saw this machine near Fouzilhon the other morning as it was just about to start working its way through the vineyard.

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DSC05813 Yesterday we helped friends pick grapes by hand – a hard morning’s work, but good fun, as a group of us worked our way up and down the rows chatting in French and Occitan. For the first time this year they are making a high-quality wine and we picked the Syrah grapes for it from a vineyard in a beautiful position on a hilltop with a view all the way to the sea. Next week we’ll help pick the Grenache grapes which are not ripe yet.

Grape jelly – an experiment

We’d picked some Carignan grapes from vines which had re-grown after a friend had uprooted her vineyard. They weren’t very good for eating – the flesh had a nice flavour but they had too many pips and a strong flavour to the skins, so I thought I’d try making grape jelly. I put 500 gm of grapes in a pan, crushed them lightly with a wooden spoon and added a couple of tablespoonfuls of sugar to them. I brought them to the boil and cooked them for about 10 minutes then put them through a mouli legumes so that I was left with the juice. I returned the juice to the pan, added 250 gm of preserving sugar and simmered for 5 minutes. The jelly is now in small jars, but it has set very hard so I think I’ll try again with ordinary sugar rather than preserving sugar. There seems to be plenty of pectin in the pips and skins to set the jelly.

Mussels again….

We bought mussels this morning from the usual Bouzigues van which calls in the village, and cooked them for lunch with sweet onion, rosemary, chopped piment d’Espelette, garlic and chorizo. They weren’t quite as tasty as when we cook them like this on the barbecue, but they still seemed to have a smoky flavour.

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IMGP0753 I ground the remaining dried piments d’Espelette from last year, to store in a jar. The colour was wonderful, and the flavour will be too. These were bought in the village of Espelette. This year we have our own, grown from seed from these.

>Moving on (towards autumn) / On avance (vers l’automne)

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Maybe it’s because our last visitors of the summer have left, or because the nights are cooler and the days not too hot to think about working in the garden, with temperatures down from 37 to 32 degrees, but we’ve started to prepare for autumn.

Peut-être c’est parce que nos derniers visiteurs de l’été sont partis, ou parce que les nuits deviennent moins chaud et on peut penser de travailler un peu dans le jardin – les températures baissent de 37 à 32 dégrees – que nous avons commencé de préparer pour l’automne.

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It was time to cut down the sunflowers and save the seeds to use in cooking and for next year’s plants. / C’était le moment pour couper les tournesols pour garder les semences pour cuisiner et pour les plants de l’année prochaine.

Lo Jardinièr began to prepare the ground where they were for sowing Cavalo Nero Kale and lettuces. / Lo Jardinièr a commencé de préparer la terre pour semer le chou frisé Cavalo Nero et les laitues.

Vendange (grape harvest)

The vendange began here a couple of weeks ago. The white grapes are picked first, at night to keep them cool. So every night at this time of year there is the constant sound of tractors going out to the vineyards in the early hours of the morning. Now the red grapes are starting to be ready for picking.

La vendange a commencé ici il y a deux semaines. Les raisins blancs d’abord, dans la nuit pour les garder frais. Maintenant les raisins rouges sont prêts.

Our grapes are ripe too. They’re bigger and sweeter than last year, but still quite small because the vine is young. / Nos raisins sont mûrs aussi. Ils sont plus gros et plus doux que l’année dernière, mais ils sont toujours assez petits parce que la vigne et jeune.

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It’s good to pick the grapes growing above your table and eat them straight from the vine.

C’est bon ramasser les raisins qui poussent au-dessus de la table et les manger tout de suite.



Peppers / les poivrons

We haven’t had many red peppers this year – as soon as they begin to ripen the snails eat them. We’ve had some good green peppers though and yesterday we grilled a perfect red one on the barbecue and ate it with goats’ cheese. Today we added two green peppers to a chicken paella.

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Aubergines – good news and bad news / Les aubergines – des mauvaises nouvelles et la bonne nouvelle

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New flowers / nouvelles fleurs
DSC08453 new aubergines / nouvelles aubergines DSC08461 and a locust eating the leaves – until we killed it / et un criquet qui mange les feuilles.

And a lizard / et un lézard

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>Vendange

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After yesterday’s lazy lunch in the garden, this morning we worked. We helped our friend B. with picking the grapes in her small patch of vines. It was our first time grape-picking. B. and the other helpers have lived here all their lives through countless harvests. It was hard work but fun and satisfying to see the trailer full of Carignan grapes going off to the cave cooperative at Puimission. The cave at Gabian has closed this year and no longer makes wine.


Après le déjeuner paisible hier au jardin, ce matin on a travaillé. Nous avons aidé notre amie B. avec le vendange dans sa petite parcelle de vignes Carignans. C’était la première fois pour nous. B. et les autres vendangeurs ont vécu toute la vie ici et ils ont vu des vendanges innombrables. C’était du travail assez dur, mais on s’est regalé et c’était satisfaisant de voir la remorque pleine de raisins en partant à la cave cooperative de Puimission. La cave cooperative à Gabian est fermée et ne fait pas encore du vin.


Carignan

This is one of the most common varieties of grape grown in the Languedoc. It is a high-yield vine which grows well in hot climates all around the Mediterranean. It is one of the varieties permitted for AOC Coteaux de Languedoc red and rosé wines, together with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. There’s more about this grape here.

C’est un des cépages les plus plantés dans le Languedoc. C’est un cépage qui donne une grosse récolte mais peu d’alcool, qui pousse bien dans les pays méditerranéens. C’est un des cépages permis pour les vins rouges et rosés AOC Coteaux de Languedoc, avec Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault et Mourvèdre. Pour plus de renseignements cliquez ici.

Les journées de patrimoine

This weekend there are heritage days all over France. The newly renovated church tower in Gabian was open to the public today for the first time. I’m afraid of heights but I asked Lo Jardinièr to take some pictures while he was up there.

C’est le weekend des journées de patrimoine en France. Le clocher de Gabian, récemment renové, était ouvert au publique pour la première fois. J’avais peur d’y monter en haut, mais j’ai demandé à Lo Jardinièr de prendre des photos.