After living in France for two and a half years, days can seem quite ordinary and routine; I shop for groceries, work, meet friends, all in all not much different than life back in the States. Yesterday though was one of those days in which I had the sense of how different it is to live here and how incredibly lucky I am to be having this experience and, even more so, to have met Brigitte and have the opportunity to get a first hand look at the life of a vigneron.
I drove to the cellar in absolutely torrential rain which went on all afternoon. The cellar is on a hilltop and low clouds and mist hung over the vines; I couldn’t even see the mazet further down the hill.
Inside, Brigitte and Pierre were doing some fine tuning on the blends before the bottling of the 2014 vintage on September 3 & 4. I was going to say last minute fine tuning, but Brigitte said they would probably still be making adjustments right up until the wine was in the bottles. They were also draining the lees, the residue that sinks to the bottom of the vats–vats that in just a few weeks will be filled with the fruits of this year’s vendage.
All around the cellar were the boxes and crates of Domaine de Cébène wine which will be shipped all over Europe, Canada, China and, soon, the US. As rain beat on the roof and thunder rumbled, I watched Pierre scramble up ladders, watched Brigitte making notes about a blend they had just tasted. More thunder and the lights briefly flickered, Brigitte looked at me, shrugged and went on working. It was noon and they still had hours of work to do. It’s not just how the wine tastes at this moment, Pierre had explained, it is how it will taste when the sommelier opens it, maybe five years from now. I imagined this, a bottle of their wine being uncorked in a fancy restaurant somewhere, five or ten years from now, perhaps on another continent and I watched the work going on around me. I had the sense of being backstage in a theatre. On opening night, it’s hard to imagine all the hard work that went on behind the scenes to create the polished production. I felt very privileged to be a witness to this one.
When I left, Pierre gave me a plastic water bottle filled with some of the lees. Very good for making coq au vin, he said. I will definitely have to try it. Life in France is very good and sometimes thrillingly different.