I recently found myself in the Rhône Valley with about 30 other pickers taking refuge in the shade of an old storage shed. Mid-afternoon, we all sat hot, parched, sticky and, in my case, with a deep cut on my hand that continued to spurt blood hours after I attempted to leave that piece of my finger in the vineyard.
As the tractor pulled away with the well-ripened fruit of our efforts, we were all bathed in a cloud of diesel exhaust. There was much talk of a “bonbon,” which most certainly piqued my interest, though nothing remotely resembling a frozen delight appeared. Apparently they were referring to a bottle of wine. Instead, a jug of sun-warmed water was passed around, and a cloud of Marlborough smoke grew around us.
There was no surprise, however, in the joyous mood—real satisfaction at what was taking place and what we were working towards.
This scene gave me pause to reflect upon the hard work and organized chaos that goes into making wine and how different that is from the moment when the wines are served. I seldom associate dirt, diesel and b.o. with the service and enjoyment of wine; instead, it is often about friends, food, and sometimes linen and crystal. It is interesting, as many of us are doing these days with much of what we consume, to consider what went into the wine that we are celebrating, bringing to our lips and imbibing with a smile.
This particular day was a part of a harvest experience for me that included both France and Australia. In addition to the aforementioned action, I experienced pigeage au pied (actual feet treading in wine? absolutely!), punch-downs, pump-overs, endless press-cycles, tons of heavy lifting and a smashed front fender. You can also include swarms of flies, wasps, lots of bees in the fermenting cap, too much beer and too little sleep. One thing that is for sure is that harvest is about long days and many challenges. Once the last of the fermenters are drained and the wines safely tucked away, it is absolutely all smiles at what is being made, what is to come and what will grace your table.
Tonight I will crack something fun to drink and try to appreciate the efforts of those that made it. Tomorrow I board a plane to Australia to revisit our efforts from our previous harvest Down Under—to check in with the grace that a little bit of sweat can produce.
Brian — costa mesa, ca — November 19, 2007 7:20pm ET
John Miller — Windsor, CA — November 20, 2007 1:57pm ET
Lisa Hauser — November 20, 2007 6:04pm ET
Brian — costa mesa, ca — November 20, 2007 10:09pm ET
Richard Betts — denver airport at present — November 21, 2007 6:58pm ET
Brian — costa mesa, ca — November 22, 2007 7:50am ET
Richard Betts — denver airport at present — November 23, 2007 12:29pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions