I am delighted to say that last week I enjoyed a wish come true. I was invited to participate in the vendage at Château de Claribès, just outside the pretty hilltop village of Gensac. It was a classic example of the old adage, “it’s not what you know, but whom you know.” We’d been lunching with friends earlier in the week, and I’d mentioned that having a go at picking the grape harvest was on my list of things I’d like to try. Two days later, Cas emailed to say that Claribès were ready to pick the grapes for their 2016 rosé that week, and would I like to go along? Well, I think that it took me all of 10 seconds to check that Brin could go and visit one of her favourite people while I was busy and confirm my attendance.
I left Les Terraces at 7:30, dropped Brin with Emmy and made my way to Gensac. It was then that I realised what was sure to be just the first mistake of the day …… I hadn’t looked closely at the Google Maps route to get to Claribès. I’d just glanced to make sure that I knew which road I needed to take out of the village, assuming that there would be signposts along the route. Nope. However, being female, I had no hesitation in stopping to ask a fellow motorist if he could point me in the right direction (he was driving a rurally rustic van, so I figured that he was a local). He did better than that by having me follow him, as he had to pass the château en route to wherever he was going.
It didn’t take long for me to be handed a pair of secateurs, guided up to a row of vines and paired up with another volunteer. We hunkered down and got to work. Ellie and I were both “vendage virgins” (my newly-coined description). She, a well-travelled and adventurous 20-something from New Zealand, was the youngest person in the vines by close to 30 years. It was fun and refreshing to hear tales of her travels around Europe, and her hopes of finding work in Bordeaux in spite of not having fluent French. What confidence; and so much the right phase of her life to be undertaking such an adventure.
At some stage, Helen (the vigneron’s lovely wife) and her helper, Theresa, came up to the vines with thermoses of coffee and a huge basket of croissants and chocolatines, which were most welcome. Eventually, there were no more empty containers for grapes available, so we headed down to the chai to see what could be done to help with the emptying of the full ones. I’ll let the pictures and captions speak for themselves for a while….
After a mad dash to harvest another 4½ rows of vines to ensure that the vat was filled with juice, it was finally (at about 2pm) time for a wonderful lunch, and, of course, a glass or two of a previous year’s rosé and to enjoy properly meeting some of the other pickers (most of whom are regulars).
And then, with lunch enjoyed, it was time to head for Sainte-Foy-La-Grande and home. I was delighted to be presented with a mixed carton of wine, especially as I’d have done it all for nothing more than the lunch. But I suspect that I shouldn’t say anything more of that!