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February 2019
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Best value MAPS of FRANCE, and keeping the children amused

Diary of a Vineyard – July 2014

64_Rives_Blanques_Oct13Ouf! as they say in French. It’s all fireworks and brimstone this month:  there’s the 4th of July and there is the Quatorze de Juillet.  

And then there is also a catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions as hail sweeps over vast tracts of the Minervois,  Cabardes,  Malepere and Carcassonne, wiping out between 20% – 100% of 15,000 ha of vines. That’s very close to home – and knowing the same could easily happen to us brings it even closer to home.   The Minister of Agriculture comes to see the desolation with his own eyes.  A number of winegrowers are uninsured, wiped out.  And not just for this year, but for next year as well, as a result. Nobody has ever seen anything like it. We thank our lucky stars to be unaffected by this randomly distributed misery.  Because that’s what it is: luck.  Luck separated by just a few hundred meters.


Friday 4 July
Red Letter Day

KLMwindow-300x199And our lucky stars are spangling bright. Today goes down in the annals of Rives-Blanques as the very best ever. First we hear that our chardonnay-chenin ‘everyday’ wine has again been awarded the gold medal of the Pays d’Oc competition, the Ambassadress Collection. It will be sent around the world to represent the quality of Languedoc’s wines. Quite an honour for a wine we like to call our “basic beauty”.

Then we hear that the SAQ Monopoly in Quebec has placed a large order for our top chardonnay – the first time ever! That alone is reason enough to celebrate. Canada here we come!!

Then … the KLM buyer calls us and says, “The panel tasted your Le Limoux yesterday. It was awful”

A heart-stopping, horrible, horrified,  horrifying  pause follows. Then he roars with laughter.

“Ha! I got you there! No, of course, it was wonderful!”

BRILLIANT!! We forgive him his sense of humour. That puts our blend Le Limoux into the World Business Class of KLM on their transcontinental flights. More than brilliant. Just absolutely, incredibly, amazingly fabulous.

And the day holds even more in store, but it’s too much even for a diary which nobody reads …

So we finish it off by watching Don Giovanni in an open air amphitheatre in the heart of the old medieval city of Carcassonne, and the stars spangle very very brightly overhead.

Monday July 7

USAsilver-150x150The two silver medals from the Best French Wines for the USA in Miami come as a bit of a let-down.  Where are the fireworks?

Friday  11 July

“Saute! Saute!”  Eric shouts at Jan-Ailbe.

But above the roar of the old tractor, he only hears what sounds like “Stop! Stop!”.

He’s trying with all his might to stop.

But the tractor, a 50+-year old veteran called an International Harvester for reasons not entirely clear to me, is a tractor that goes on and on when all else stops.   It is a tractor that out-tractors our brand-new Ferrari-red computer-driven state-of-the-art Cases number.  The trouble is,  the unstoppable tractor is not stopping.  In fact, it is cutting a sure, certain, unwavering  path down the slippery slope towards the steep drop at the end of the Cépie field.

More frantic “Saute! Saute!” from Eric, and more fruitless pumping of the break from Jan-Ailbe.

Finally, he disentangles his 6’7″ frame from the cramped cabin and jumps for his life.

Tuesday 15 July
Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting 

TTTT3-300x225Our Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting visitors come on the dot of 10h30.  There are a couple of Belgians, some Dutch people, and a number of Britons.  We have advertised the fact that we speak Chinese  (and Spanish and Portuguese) but fortunately that has not been put to the test yet.  Certainly the ‘talk’ bit of the Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting would be a lot less free ranging.  Right now we’ve been banging on about biodiversity (in English), something that resonates with the Panman accompanying today’s tour into the vineyard (the Panman who speaks Chinese wouldn’t know what a boar is in Mandarin any way.)   We stop at the field where the chardonnay for Odyssée grows, and biodiversity flies in.  A White Admiral, a Swallowtail and a Blue Something steal the scene.  The scene is difficult to steal at the best of times, but there are a couple of avid amateur butterfly-ists in the group.  For them, the view pales  in comparison.

Wednesday 16 July

Our 25-year old forklift lifts its last and is replaced by a nifty metallic silver job with power steering and a bleeper that bleeps when it reverses.  Both Jan’s are thrilled.  It’s a battered up, fairly beaten second-hand affair, but to look at them you’d think Christmas had come.

Monday 21 July

Two Dutch stewardesses with two friends and a gaggle of children, one English doctor with son and son’s girlfriend, three Swedes, and a single, solitary Frenchwoman all turn up in the tasting room at the same time.  Polyglot party-time; no work gets done.

Carol Panman

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