A Boaring Story . . .

I had my second encounter with a sanglier, or wild boar, last night. My first was just before Christmas when I caught one in the headlights of my car. He, or she, was moving through a stand of trees and by the time I’d braked for a closer look (from the car, of course) had disappeared into the woods. I’ve been fascinated with sanglier since I first arrived in France. I was in the Dordogne and there was a discussion about hunting and eating sanglier. Someone had mentioned seeing one in the woods–the woods where I took my daily walk. They don’t usually bother people, I was assured, unless they are provoked. Still, I stopped walking in the woods; who knows what a sanglier might find provocative?

In the fall, by then I’d moved to Montpeyroux, I saw chasseurs, hunters, in orange vests along the sides of the roads, rifles at the ready. I tried to engage one of them in conversation, but my French was limited and he was more interested in spotting a boar . . . or perhaps he found me a bore. Sorry, couldn’t resist. On some days, my walks through the vineyards were punctuated by the sounds of rifle shots–scarier even than a provoked bore. I learned not to walk on Wednesdays or the weekends, the times when hunting is allowed.
Saucisson-au-sanglier
I really, really wanted to taste sanglier. Hypocritically, I didn’t want to see one shot, I didn’t want to hear the gory details, I just wanted a chunk of roasted boar. Everyone it seemed had just finished a meal of sanglier, or knew someone with a freezer full, promises were made but the closest I came to an actual taste was the sanglier saucisson at the Saturday market in Gignac. I bought some, but, blindfolded, I wouldn’t have known whether it was sanglier or canard–also sold at the market.
I told a friend, whose French husband is a hunter, about my quest. She’d eaten so much sanglier recently, she was bored (ok, pun intended) with it, she’d see what she could do about finding some for me. A week or so later she called, no sanglier but she could give me a duck. Well, ok, I guess. A quick question though. I hesitated. Would it still have feathers? And a head? She laughed. Bien sur. Then she confided a little secret that helped to keep the marriage harmonious. When her husband brought home the limp and feathered ducks, she’d take them to her neighbour next door, then pop off to the supermarket and buy the plastic wrapped variety. Her husband always complimented her on the meal, she said. Nothing like freshly killed duck.
IMG_1781
But back to the sanglier. Here in the winemaking village of Laurens, I’ve learned that sanglier love ripe grapes and this can take quite a toll on crops. Hunters are needed to keep the population down, reputedly about to take over France although you couldn’t prove it by me, but timing is everything. A few weeks ago, this led to an interesting encounter between the chasseurs and a busload of tasters who had come to visit Brigitte’s cellar at Domaine de Cébène. I wasn’t there, but Brigitte described the scene in an e-mail. As she waited to greet her visitors, she could see dozens of hunters in their orange vests milling around. A bit nervous, she waved a brightly coloured scarf above her head. The bus arrived, the tourists piled off. A delegate from the hunting group also arrived. The tourist bus must leave, he told Brigitte, a hunt was going on–in her vineyard! A stand-off ensued. You have been informed, the hunter said, if anyone gets shot, it will not be our responsibility.
The wine tasting went on. No-one was shot. Perhaps not even a sanglier, I don’t know.
10974534_526905644118864_7378675530686707256_o
And now about my second encounter with a sanglier. Finally. There it was on my plate last night, marinated and served in bite-sized pieces at my friend Bassie’s birthday party. Bassie is in the foreground in a pink sweater, I’m at the other end of the table, the back of my head to the camera, fork at the ready. There was also mashed potatoes and gravy and some vegetables. I only had eyes for the sanglier. It was delicious.

(Oh . . . yeah, while Joe was here, he went out for a walk and came back very excited. He’d seen half a dozen men haul a dead sanglier from a truck. Half the village was hanging around watching, he said. Of course, by the time I went to have a look, there was nothing to see which is why I didn’t include it in this story. I was jealous, I wanted the encounter. All’s well now though.)

Oh Little Star of Montpeyroux . . .

Can it be that Christmas is just over two weeks away . . . and Carolyn and Bill’s visit even closer? Time zips by. Joe returned to the States two weeks ago and I still haven’t written about our trip down to Bilbao. Perhaps a road trip retrospective for a future post.

I wrote the last entry on Thanksgiving day, really a non event for me this year. I’d wondered whether my newly purchased car would turn out to be a bit of a turkey. Glad to say all the issues were worked out and I now have my carte grise–which means the car is officially registered to me. As I wrote on Facebook last week, I often feel a bit like a tourist hybrid–not quite a tourist, but not really a resident either. The process of buying and registering a car definitely made me feel less of a tourist as did the bank account I opened last week. I actually had to make an appointment to do this. Wanting things to happen immediately is, I’m finding, an American attitude which can lead to frustration in France. Anyway, I now have French cheques and a credit card which will help a lot when paying rent and doing business at all those places (autoroute toll booths, for example) that don’t take American credit cards.

So Christmas is upon us. Blue stars are strung above the village streets and there are holiday markets and festivals everywhere. Last Sunday Montpeyroux held its marché´du Noel. I ogled the displays of dried and glazed fruits, bought a bunch of holly then drove to another holiday event, this one at the Chateau Cassan about half an hour from here. Stalls and stalls of tempting things for sale, all set out under the curved and gilded ceiling of a building which dates back centuries. At some point a certain Prince de Contii, a man who evidently knew something about gift giving, presented it to his mistress as a little token of his affection. It’s said she can sometimes be heard playing the piano, but I didn’t hear her. Perhaps she was Christmas shopping too. I bought English Xmas crackers and a Xmas cake with hard icing and marzipan.

Life in the village can feel very quaint and French–the small shops, the traditions and sense of history. For me, that’s part of the charm of living in France, but it isn’t necessarily representative of French life in general. Yesterday, I had arranged to meet a friend at the Odysseum, a huge American style shopping mall on the outskirts of Montpellier. She has a sixteen year old son who wanted to visit the Apple store. Anticipating holiday traffic around the mall, I drove to the Mosson station and rode the tram in. I was early so I picked up a few things at Ikea then sat on a bench waiting for my friend. An illuminated snowman glittered in the bright sunshine, palm trees sported stylized icicles. As I listened to the canned music playing Dreaming of a White Christmas, I had to remind myself I wasn’t in Southern California.
IMG_0242

I have no doubt that life in France would be much more difficult without Skype,Facebook,e-mail and the on-line community. The ex-pat sites, there are many of them, are particularly helpful. Even before I left the States, I joined several, posting questions about everything from whether I should bring my hair dryer to France and the prospects of finding a writing group. (No to the first question, better to buy one and, to #2, since every ex-pat in France is writing a book there should be no shortage of other writers.) Survive France is one of my favorites. Last week, an urgent message was posted on behalf of one of the members who had recently suffered a brain aneurysm. At the urging of her family, she’d moved to a small village to be closer to them, but they’d dropped the ball and she was without resources or very much support at all. Worse, her internet was down, she was having difficulty arranging for the nursing care she needed and, not surprisingly, felt isolated and depressed. Within minutes of the appeal, the message boards lit up. By the end of the day, her internet was back up, nursing care had been arranged and she’d discovered the true generosity of the human spirit. Without Survive France, she wrote, she couldn’t have survived in France. A nice story any time of year, but especially heartwarming at this time.
Merry Xmas . . . in case I don’t catch up before then!

More Catching Up . . .

I’d originally intended to write at least once a week, more if inspiration struck.  Now I’m struggling to make it once every two weeks. It’s not that I’m not inspired–from the fall displays of cepes, walnuts and pumpkins at the Saturday market in Gignac and rumors of wild boar in the vineyards to my continuing struggle with French, inspiration abounds. But all sorts of things manage to successfully draw my attention away from the computer.
Just over a week ago, I heard Joe’s voice at the door and there he was in his Colorado sweatshirt, overflowing bags, reading material tucked under his arm looking much as he did the last time I saw him seven months earlier.  Then he’d been waving goodbye before driving to Paris for a flight back to California.  This time, he’d driven from Barcelona.  Somehow it didn’t seem all that different from the many times he’d driven from San Diego to see me in Long Beach. As I write this, there is jazz playing, a glass of wine at hand. Chicken and ratatouille cooking for dinner. It’s good to have him back here.
IMG_0030
Although I’d read that the French don’t do much in the way of Halloween celebrations, this certainly wasn’t true in and around Montpeyroux.  The guides at the  Maison de la Poterie in St Jean de Fos were dressed as witches, all purple and black hair and warty noses, there were pumpkins and cobwebs (fake!) in the butcher’s window and by ten we’d run out of candy.   If there’s a French equivalent to kids yelling ‘trick or treat,’ I either didn’t hear it or didn’t recognize it.
IMG_0026
And now for the really big news. I’d intended to manage without a car in France and perhaps I might have if I were in the city, or even a larger town. It’s difficult in the village without wheels though. Through Survive France, one of the many ex-pat sites that have been god-sends since I arrived, I met Anna who lives in Carcassone and had a car she wanted to sell. Monday, Joe and I drove to her house, about an hour and a half from here, bought the car–a silver 2005 Ford Fusion– and celebrated that night with cassoulet at Carcassonne’s medieval castle. The next day I drove it back to Montpeyroux. Now I’m busy plotting my next adventure. Toulouse beckons. Writing? OK, I’ll get back to it eventually.

Rainy Saturday. . .

I’d set my alarm so that I could get up early this morning and beat the crowds at the weekly market in Gignac, but rain on the roof around dawn woke me before the alarm.  I burrowed under the covers, listened to the rain and wondered if I really needed anything at the market anyway. For the past month, first with Marilla and then Barbara, the Saturday market has been a source of entertainment; the cheeses, the olives, the mounds of bright vegetables.  We bought hugely and ate hugely.  This week I only needed to shop for myself–not quite as much fun and something that could be accomplished at the less colorful but well stocked intermarché.  I went to the Gignac market anyway.

Rain had kept the crowds away, the usually full outdoor cafés were empty and some of the stalls were already closing. Live chickens huddled together in their crates looked damp and miserable — although what a happy chicken looks like I couldn’t say.

 Since I’d left without breakfast, I bought a Roquefort tart from the boulangerie, ordered a café creme at the place next door and found a covered spot.  Sitting there, eavesdropping on French conversations, actually understanding a bit here and there, I felt very content, very much at home somehow.  Only six months in France yet it feels so much longer.  I thought of the first time I went to the Thursday market in Exideuill. Newly arrived, I was beside myself with excitement. I took notes, snapped pictures (see above) and was so busy absorbing the theatre of it all that I couldn’t even think about buying food.

Today, I bought half a dozen or so of the scalloped and bright red tomates ancienne, then misplaced my umbrella –the Dali one I’d bought in Spain– and spent the next 30 minutes tracking it down. “Excusez moi, je cherchez ma parapleui.” I found it.

Now, as I write this, it is still pouring but the apartment is cozy with lamps and candles and music playing and I’m enjoying that content and rooted feeling. Still, I go back and forth about what I want to do. One minute, I can imagine staying in France indefinitely, the next, I’m overcome with longing to see my family, to hear familiar voices. If I stay, I know I want to find a place with a terrace or garden–some sort of outdoor area.  I’d also like to be closer to a larger town–although if I get a car (and my French teacher’s husband and a neighbor are looking for me) Montpellier is an easy drive. I’m told I can easily sell the car when I decide to leave.

  There is also much about Montpeyroux that appeals to me. The friendliness of neighbors–an elderly woman opposite who told me not to wait for an engraved invitation but to come over any time.  She would, she said, teach me French and how to cook like a French woman.  That offer seems almost irresistible.  Although I regret that I gave the vendange short shrift (maybe next year. . . and my French will be better!) I am fascinated by the wine making process and its impact on the villages. I’m in the middle of reading The Ripening Sun by Patricia Atkinson. With seemingly wide-eyed naivete and no knowledge of French, even more naive, she succumbed to the dream of becoming a wine maker in southwest France. To describe the work as formidable is an understatement; reading a few chapters every night, I’m exhausted myself. If her account didn’t discourage others with similar notions, I don’t think anything would. Fortunately for wine drinkers though, the rewards of being a vintner are apparently sufficient to keep the wine flowing.

 As an observer, I love the prospect of experiencing the different seasons in the vineyards. I’ve now seen spring, summer and early autumn. An English neighbor, whose French husband is a winemaker for the cooperative of a nearby village, has worked the vendange for years. The tidying up of the vineyards, as she called it, is the next step. Leaves, already brown and drying, will be burned. The long trailing vines cut and bundled, some will also be burned.  November, as everything slows to winter, is her favorite time she says. The whisps of smoke from bonfires in the morning air. The clear light. All very peaceful and beautiful.  So I think of moving on, then find that the more I learn about where I am, the more I want to know.  But perhaps that’s the way of life.

Image

Yesterday’s post from Facebook:

Beautiful autumn days here in the south of France. Walked through the vineyards this morning. Olive trees around the village are full of pale green fruit. Very hard to the touch at the moment, but I have no idea what olives look like when they’re ready to harvest. A few seem to be changing color. New sounds in the vineyards for the past few days; the pop of hunters’ guns. Pheasant? Quail? No idea. Trying to turn the truck around on a dirt road last week, I scared a few out of the shrubs and they strutted across the road in front of my wheels. The gun shots make me a bit leery–reminiscent of searching for chanterelles in the Pacific Northwest at the start of the hunting season. Walking back into the village, a more melodic sound–piano scales from an open window drifting down to the street.
Image

Comings and Goings . . .

The date marking my first six months in France passed while Marilla was still here. It seemed like an auspicious date and I’d intended to write about it, but we were too busy having fun for me to want to spend time at the computer.
After finally managing to rent the car, we put our wheels to good use. One Sunday, we drove down to the beach areas near Montpellier–Palavas les flots, Aigues Mortes, Saintes Maries-de-la-Mere. Palavas is on a strip of sand dunes that separates a couple of lakes– Étang de l’Arnel and the Étang du Méjean– from the Mediterranean. The air had a salty tang that, living inland, I’ve missed. We saw pink flamingoes doing their balletic twisting, numerous seabirds and an equally numerous number of competitors for the few parking spaces available. Not wishing to compete, we drove on to the Camargue, all marshes and farmland and very different from the landscape in and around Montpeyroux. We saw the fabled white horses, no longer wild it seems, black bulls lying on strips of sand by the water. We took a boat ride, had beer and chips at a waterfront cafe and got hopelessly lost in Montpellier as we tried to return to Montpeyroux. Actually we spent a lot of time during Marilla’s visit doing the last two things–eating, drinking and (not necessarily as a result) getting lost.


I’ve wanted to visit Collioure ever since someone told me that it was the anchovy capital of France. Although tourists have replaced anchovies as the chief commodity–we had to look hard to even find anchovies on restaurant menus– Collioure was charming and picturesque and definitely worth a return visit. We ate enough mussels to change Marilla’s mind about liking them. She decided she did, although perhaps not in the quantity that we consumed then. We also sampled, Banyuls, a sweet local wine. The following day we drove the picturesque, but hair raising, road down the coast to the Dali museum in Figueres, Spain. I think I preferred Dali’s house to the museum–more whimsical somehow with its glimpses into the artist’s domestic life.

Yesterday, October 1, I saw Marilla off at the Montpellier airport and picked up Barbara at the Mosson tram stop. The airport is at one end of the city, the tram stop at the other. In between, I managed to once again get hopelessly snarled in the middle of Montpellier traffic and thwarted by street signs that seem to indicate one direction but lead to another. At one point, thinking I’d taken the road out of the city, I found myself instead in the underground parking lot of a shopping center. Once in, I couldn’t get out. Cars lined up behind me at the security gate. I fumbled in my bag for change. I found the change, but couldn’t find anywhere to deposit it. More cars lined up behind me. I got out of my car and spoke to the guy in the car behind me. He said something I couldn’t understand. The car behind him backed up, then the guy I’d spoken to backed up. Then I backed up. Parking lots in France, I suddenly remembered, require that you validate your picket BEFORE you get to the security gate. I parked the car, took the escalator up to the shops, downed a cup of café creme, validated my ticket and this time successfully managed an exit.

IMG_1171
IMG_6227
In April, when I first arrived in France, the vines around the Pigeonniere in Exideuil, were stark and bare. By June, I’d moved down here to Montpeyroux and the vineyards were green with new leaves. Now the vendange is, for the most part, finished and there are flashes of red and rust as leaves change color. I’ve spent a spring and summer here and autumn is very much in evidence with cooler mornings and evenings, but brilliant blue skies. Just a month ago, Pezenas, where I go on Mondays for French lessons, was jammed with tourists. This past Monday the streets were empty, many of the shops shuttered. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that as winter approaches and I look forward to more visitors from the States, there will still be enough to keep everyone entertained. As I write this, Barbara is out walking in the vineyards. She was in half a dozen different European countries before she arrived here and she assures me that a little time alone with nature is exactly what she wants. I’m happy to oblige. Yesterday, we had a lunch of olives, anchovies, various cheeses and bread that Marilla and I bought at the market in Gignac last Saturday. (Barbara says thank-you, Marilla!) This Saturday, I’ll take Barbara and we’ll replenish the stock. The market is open year round and, if all else fails, always a source of entertainment.

The dog ate my post . . .

Or why it’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote. Reason #1. Marilla and I have spent the better part of two days on busses and trams and a navette (shuttle) or two. Put another way, we’ve learned a great deal about public transportation in and around Montpellier in order to gain access to private transportation. More about that in a bit.

Reason #2. Some things are more fun than writing. No! While I really haven’t felt lonely or — except briefly– homesick since I arrived in France, almost six months ago now, it’s been wonderful having company. The joys of yakking over coffee in the morning, exploring the area during the day, then more yakking over wine at night have provided stiff competition to time spent working at the computer. Actually, most things provide stiff competition to working at the computer. Since I’m still essentially a tourist myself, I don’t need much persuasion to leave my desk.

We’ve taken walks through the vineyards, last week still full of purple blue bunches of grapes. I picked bouquets of thyme, rosemary and lavender for my own herbes de provence mixture. We found fig trees dropping their juicy little gifts at our feet– some we helped along by shaking the branches. Ripe figs are delicious fresh, incredible broiled with blue cheese. One day, we walked through the vineyards to Arboras, a village just up the hill, and ate salads of chevre drizzled with honey. A glass or two or rosé is, of course, obligatory.


We’ve also done the sort of thing that has now become part of my life in France–the Saturday market in Gignac for cheese, olives and, from a nearby boulangerie, an olive studded baguette that is only available on market days. At the Sunday puce–flea market–in Paulhan I bartered, in French, for a couple of wicker chairs. We both admired a little egg basket that folds flat. Although I bought it for myself, I should really give it to Marilla to take back to the States as a souvenir. Jury is still out on that.

I’ve also succeeded in infecting Marilla with my obsession for witnessing the vendange. Or she’s just being polite. Anyway, we’ve been zealously watching the vineyards; as of yesterday, still lots of grapes unharvested. I’ve set the alarm and we’ve wandered out in the pre-dawn light hoping to see grape pickers. Instead we caught a dramatic early morning sunrise, a lot of activity around the Montpeyroux cooperative involving tractors of every size, shape and color and bins full of picked grapes. We’ve also watched mechanical pickers in the fields, but we’re holding out for bent backs and human toiling. If all else fails, I’ll have Marilla do some toiling, I’m sure she’d be happy to oblige.
IMG_6119

A few days ago, we decided to rent a car so that we could explore further afield. The cheapest rentals were at the airport — maybe an hour from Montpeyroux by car, considerably longer when things don’t go quite as planned. If, as the saying goes, getting there is half the fun, the last couple of days had to rank high on the list of ways to entertain visitors — future and prospective visitors should confirm that with Marilla though . . .

Day 1 of the rent-a-car adventure, we walked around to the cooperative to catch the 12:35 bus to Montpellier. It rolled into view about 12:48, we boarded and paid our 1.60 euro fare. Although the destination on the front of the bus said Montpellier, I was pretty sure we changed busses in Gignac and confirmed this by mumbling something to the driver which he didn’t understand. Then he mumbled back something that I didn’t understand. Employing the sheep theory, which I do a lot in France, when everyone else got off the bus in Gignac, we did too.

Good decision. The bus to Montpellier was waiting. At the Mosson tram station in Montpellier we bought tickets and got on the tram to Place de l’Europe. According to the schedule I’d found on line (much easier to do it this way, I’m discovering, than battle with the language later) this was where we’d catch the airport shuttle. Somehow though we failed to notice the bus stop across the road and wandered around Place de l’Europe looking for anything resembling a shuttle stop. Eventually, I asked a bus driver. At first– usually the case when I go into my fractured French explanations– I got the blank, uncomprehending stare. Then I fractured a bit more French and, voila, he understood. I get such a charge when that happens.

By the time we got to the shuttle stop it was nearly three p.m., almost an hour after the time we were supposed to pick up the car. I call the rental company and explain that we’re running late. No problem, I’m told. At four, we walk into the rental office and I hand them my reservation information. The clerk behind the counter shrugs. There is no record of a car reserved in my name. Nothing. Rien. The reservation has disappeared. Perhaps a dog ate it. My card had not been charged though and she could offer us a car for approximately three times the cost of what we’d originally been quoted.

Marilla and I stared at one another. Our options–to pay an exorbitant sum, or to head back to Montpeyroux. By this time it was nearly five p.m. and the last bus back to the village was . . . leaving very shortly and we still had to catch a navette, another tram and a connecting bus.

We chose to race the clock. At one point, when the tram back to Mosson stalled, it felt a bit like an episode of the Amazing Race. It was after seven by the time we were back in the apartment toasting our adventure, albeit unsuccessful, with a glass of wine. The next day, we took the bus back into Montpellier and picked up a car from the Gare St Roch station–decent price and easier than going out to the airport again.
“But we learned a lot,” I said to Marilla.
“Yes, we did,” she agreed.
“But it was fun though, wasn’t it?” I asked.
She smiled.
I think she had fun.
Tomorrow, we’re off on a new adventure.

Did I miss the vendange?

Vendange? My definition. A supermarket wine sold in large bottles that I sometimes drank at home, but, snob that I am, wouldn’t take to a dinner party if I wanted to impress. But that was BF–Before France. I don’t mean that France has cured me of wine snobbery; I’m talking words. Vendange –along with transhumance (the seasonal movement of livestock) and vide grenier (attic clearance, think big garage sale)– has been given a place in my French adventure lexicon. At least, I hope to include vendange. The adventure hasn’t quite happened yet.

Montpeyroux, like most of its neighbors in the Herault department of Languedoc-Roussillon, is a wine village. If the vineyards all around don’t tip you off, the wine makers’ advertising, like campaign posters at election time, will. The region has some 740,000 acres of vineyards — about three times the combined area of Bordeaux vineyards.

I’ve been hearing and reading about the vendange–or, more accurately, the anticipated vendange for weeks. Because of a cool spring, harvesting is very late this year. I read that 2013 might turn out to be the latest vendange since the 1930’s.

Eventually the day will come though. The time,so to speak, will be ripe. Seasonal workers will descend on the village where they’ll be trucked out to toil in the vineyards. Crouched low to the ground, they’ll move down the rows of vines, clip off the grape clusters and drop them into buckets. When full, the buckets will be emptied into barrels and taken away for processing. After a day of hard work there will be music and drinking, (non!) community meals and lots of merriment.

It sounds like fun and I don’t want to miss it (the merriment, less so the toiling) but I keep worrying that I will. Actually, I also worried about missing the transhumance which involved several hundred sheep making their way past my front door– with bells around their necks. I tend to worry over things about which I have very little control. Not only did I not miss the transhumance, evidence of it stuck around, literally, for several days.

But while the transhumance and vide grenier were events I could mark on my calendar (although the vide grenier was almost cancelled due to rain) timing of the vendange is a little trickier. Alarms will not sound, church bells won’t toll to send the pickers on their merry ways, a collective cheer won’t ring through the village–although perhaps it might when the work is all over. The thing is, no-one can really be sure of exactly the right moment to begin the harvest. Art versus science, or perhaps art and science. Grapes are tested daily for sugar content, tannins, the ripeness of skins and a host of other subtleties that will make the difference between a good bottle and . . . Vendange? Winemakers hope for a few more sunny days and the weather has been obliging so far, but there are storms forecast for the weekend which no-one is happy about. Rain and hail earlier this year wreaked havoc on Bordeaux area vineyards.

In France, not much happens in the middle of the day. Accordingly, grape picking is done early in the morning, while the weather is still comfortably cool. This led me to worry that the grapes might have been picked while I slept and that I had managed to miss the whole thing. I took a walk out to the vineyards. Although tractors often rumble down my road, there were none in the fields. Actually, there was no-one in the fields except me–it was, after all, 2 p.m. At first glance, I couldn’t see grapes on the vines either. And then I did. Big, purple blue clusters hanging like Xmas ornaments. Mourvédre,Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. I’d like to leave the impression that I recognized them, but I just looked up names of grapes grown in this area. They all looked like purple blue grapes to me. Picturesque though. I tasted a few. Smaller than table grapes, firm and intensely sweet. I would have tasted some white ones too, but I couldn’t find any. Perhaps they’ve been picked, now that I think of it. I did hear that the whites are picked first.

So everyone’s playing the waiting game. I confided my fear of missing the vendange to a friend who is letting workers pitch tents on her property. She laughed and assured me I wouldn’t miss it. It takes a while, a couple of weeks maybe, to harvest all those grapes. I told her I might try my hand at picking some myself. She didn’t exactly laugh at that, but warned that it’s hard on the back. I meant to ask whether grape stomping is one of those things that they only do in movies. If not, it might be something I’d be good at. Or tasting, I’d enjoy that.

Just to be sure I don’t sleep through anything, I’m planning to set my alarm for the rest of the week.

Below: Grapes . . . of some kind.
Pictures from a winemaker’s dinner I attended at Domaine Virgil Joly in nearby San Saturnin. Thanks to Louise Hurren for the invite.

IMG_6056

539069_621503524560579_1439848172_n-11236475_621503444560587_1173430982_n

postscript. After I posted, I saw this on Facebook from a local winegrower.
#Languedoc #harvest report from Saint-Chinian #wine grower Catherine Wallace: “Our appellation is around 10-15 days late (talking about red wines mainly). This in itself brings different problems and challenges for the producer – we need warm sunshine throughout September to help ripen the grapes otherwise we will be producing wines around 12.5% ABV rather than the average 14.5% ABV! Generally, there is a lot of coulure in the Grenache so yields will be down. Syrah is looking good but producers are concerned with verre de la grappe and how this might affect the yields if more preventative / controlled spraying is not undertaken in the vineyard. Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre – although important in some blends, does not feature highly in our appellation, so there was little discussion around these grapes. This will be a challenging year and speaking with some of the older generation, they cannot remember such a late harvest and were suggesting that 1930 was like 2013! The next month will be interesting…”