30 November, 2000

Fallen leaves

Almost naked vineyards in the plots of Veuve Clicquot at Verzy.

In the second half of November the cold of winter has arrived very suddenly. The leaves of the vines have fallen accordingly.

Just one week ago the yellow vineleaves - now in the last movement of their autumnal symphony of colours - still managed to cling to the confusion of branches of the vines. The cold of this last week however has made most of them fall. And after a few days on the ground the leaves look so withered as if they had spend weeks between the rows and not just days.

Early pruning
Only now you should start pruning your vine, that is, if you absolutely cannot wait. The best pruning - so the experts say - is done in the month of March. But if you have to deal with a lot of hectares - or only have the weekends to deal with the job - you may have to start early, no matter what is the best.

But then, of course there is a limit even for early birds. We have seen a few of them pruning already before the leaves were gone. The blue columns of smoke from les brouettes - special wheelbarrows made of old oil barrels - reveal what is going on. A sight like this just about makes the few black hairs left turn instantly white. It can damage a vine severely to prune it even before the sap has dropped meaning that the plant is not yet dormant.

The problem is, that the wound, that you cannot help adding to the plant when you prune it, will heal very badly this time of the year. This will leave the vine just about defenceless towards the frost of the winter.

Withered leaves on the floor.

Early pruning or not
The norm says 180 hours of work to prune our 2/3 hectares, which makes it a hobby, that you need to plan quite detailedly in order to fit in all the work in the available weekends for just about all vinter.

This is the reason why we know several people who chooses to preprune their vines. A task, that is performed right now. Prepruning simply means that you cut off the top of the vines with a chain saw. This is not a job for delicate soals like me. The pruning itself is a job where detail is king and where you look carefully into what you do. The prepruning means walking up and down the rows with your saw while cutting off branches more or less in the same heigth but with no regards to any specific needs of certain plants. Doing it however saves a lot of work at pruning time.

However, we have opted not to preprune. According to the theory of Alain it is better for the general health of the plant to leave it. This is because you very easily cut too much at the wrong places, for example too many buds from a branch that you later may need.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

29 November, 2000

Doctor vine

We burn infected brushwood on site to avoid further spreading of the disease.

Like many other winegrowers we are troubled by disease in the vineyards too.

This autumn we have removed about 200 infected plants, which is a great deal more than last year. Actually it is so many that we will have to replant in spring. Normally you do not replant before you change all plants in a plot, but of course if you have to take too many plant out of production you may have to change some even it is not due time.

In the end it is a trade-off. As long as you can easily meet your quota of grapes there is no point replanting. However you have to be a bit on top of the situation as it develops since a plant only reaches its full potential in four years.

Infection spread at harvest time
The spreading of the disease is caused by people. Each year during the grape harvest, when many persons work fast, they spread infection too, when they touch first an infected plant and next a sound one. The only thing you can do to avoid this is to remove the infected plants before harvest time.

The task is a bit more important for us than before, since we this year have more plants with disease than last year. Probably because we two years ago - first year with baby - never made it to the vineyards to remove infected plants. With a negative effect the following grape harvest it seems.

The big scissors cut just about everything but the roots.

Last year we removed infected plants too, and since we have done it again this year, we hope to see the problem dammed in. But we will only know next year on the number of plants with little leaves and poor grapes.

Our situation anyway is not that extraordinary, says the guy, that does the tractor
works in our plots. He performs the same kind of tasks for other winegrowers, where the situation is similar to ours. Driving through especially the Côte des Blancs we can see many plots with the same sad appearances of infected vines.

Two operations
The diseased plants are removed in two seperate operations.

The first one we can manage ourselves in one weekend. Alain cuts off all the branches at the infected plants and as much of the root as is possible with the big scissors. And I carry the brushwood through the rows to burn it at the side of the road.

Later in the winter also the root, that is as much of it as you can, must be removed. You need the pull of a tractor to do this as a vine has roots that are several meters deep. Of course you will have to remove as much as you can.

A stub is all that is left from this infected vine.

Cooler days have come to us. But the weather is not yet cold enough to make the big flocks of starlings migrate further south.

We hear the flapping of thousands of pairs of wings, as a huge flock change plot. They pass 20-30 metres over our heads. Do not stand under such a flock, the locals say, but what can you do in the vineyards when thousands of birds collectively choose to move. After all they cover quite a considerable amount of square metres. Alain however is happy that the bird directly over him only only has pee to provide

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

28 November, 2000

Last trip with the scissors

Fully ripe Pinot Meunier, and there is plenty of them.

The mild sun of October has been good for the grapes. What was still green and absolutely not eatable during the grapeharvest six weeks ago, has since early November developped a very pleasant balance between acidity and sugar.

The colour too is great. Many of our Pinot Meunier-grapes are turning black now. A colour they rarely reach more than spotwise at the time of the grapeharvest. These late grapes are also much smaller, both the berry itself and the amount of berries on each grape.

However, nobody cares. This late picking of grapes is just for the fun. We cannot sell these grapes anywhere.

Pretty useless grapes
This year our quota of grapes ware 13.000 kilos per hectare, which we had no problems to deliver. What we have been able to pick since the grapeharvest therefore is not used for anything this year.

It can be almost heartbreaking to leave such pretty healthy grapes till they rot. Or as bad, during the grapeharvest to pick pretty grapes just to throw them on the floor, where they will eventually rot too. However, that is how you deal with a surplus of grapes.

Grapeharvest twice in 2003
Only in the very special years where there is not enough grapes at the time of the grapeharvest, you may have to pick grapes again later. In practice this only happens in years, where the springfrost has killed a lot of buds, or if the vineyard has been extraordinary plagued by disease.

Back in 2003 it was necessary to harvest the late ripened grapes as it was one of those years - one out of ten - with one bad night of severe and late frost.

A late grapeharvest is done by the family and friends and friends of friends normally during one or two days of a weekend. You do not hire real grape pickers. It is too expensive and anyway not necessary since the second yield is much smaller than the first one.

All complaints fell silent
Back in 2003 there was a lot of complaining in the months after new year about the blocked stocks. Vinegrowers are farmers too, and they were unsatisfied about the decision that they were to keep a certain percentage of the yield of the year as a reserve (the reserve of the harvest in 2005 is 1.500 kilos per hectare). Stocks cost money, blocked reserves too, they occuoy room andvats and you do not get any money back on blocked grapes as long as they stay as stocks. So how would these vinegrowers ever get their money back?

As widespread springfrost during one single night destroyed between 40 and 50 percent of the potential grapes in Champagne, this complaining died out completely, probably forever.

The blocked stocks added together with the results of the two grapeharvests of the year made almost the same as the normal amount of grapes in a normal year. Without reserves it thus would not have been possible to produce as many bottles of champagne as the customors normally demand.

Last trip with the scissors in Loisy-en-Brie.

Now when we work in the vineyard, I will cut some kilos of late grapes but only for our own use. There is a number of recipies à la vigneronne. This means a lot of grapes in the dish.

The poor vinegrowers in the Champagne of the old days ate anything they could find in their fields that was eatable, so of course grapes of the second harvest was popular too, in salads, cakes and main courses. Personally I like our little intensely tasting Pinot Meunier with small grains and easy eatable skin in a clafoutis, which is a cake with a lot of eggs and fruit.

På dansk

Copyright: The copyright for text and photos at bobler.blogspot.com belongs to Solveig Tange. You may use my articles, photos or parts of them for non-commercial use and if I am credited as the author. Feel free to link to this site but not in your own frameset please.

26 November, 2000

Fine og Marc de Champagne

Fine de Champagne og Marc de Champagne.

Mindre kendte end kolleger fra Bourgogne eller den italienske grappa, men trods alt to alen af et stykke.

De to lokale spirituosa bliver destilleret af forskellige ting fra druerne: vin, bærme, presseresterne, frugtkød og/eller kerner. Finens udgangspunkt er normalt vin og Marc'ens er druerester.

Man kan snuppe sig et lille glas Fine i stedet for en cognac, armagnac eller hvad man nu ellers kan finde på at parre en kop kaffe med efter en god middag.

Her i huset drikker vi meget lidt spiritus, og hvis det endelig er, så er det oftere en god skotsk whisky, der ryger på bordet. Men jeg har nu altid en flaske Fine stående til hvis det nu skal være.

Hvorfor hører man sjældent om Marc eller Fine du Champagne, når nu Marc du Bourgogne og grappa har opnået pæn popularitet? Mit gæt er, at den mousserende vin løber med den primære interesse. Til dem, der vil på jagt, hedder en af de store producenter i Champagne Goyard, hvis Fine holder 40% og Marc'en 60%.

Et enkelt destilleri har dog fundet vej ind i Montagne de Reims' dybe skov, og dets whisky støder jeg faktisk af og til ind i i Danmark. Men jeg har nu nok i at smage whisky fra Skotland eller cognac, hvis det endelig skal være, og holder mig ellers til Finen fra Champagne, når der skal procenter på bordet eller i gryden.

14 November, 2000

Eustache Deschamps in Paris

Showtime in Paris.

At its busiest moments the Maison du Danemark has quite a few guests both friday and saturday. Along the walls each of the 16 tables presenting different wines each have both guests to serve and talk to, and in the middle of the room and in the peripheria of the tables, more are queing up to be served.

The Danish Embassys presentation of Danish winemakers in Paris each day attracts around 200 guests, who cover a range from highly specialized winejournalists to sommeliers and restaurant-owners to Danish foreign correspondents, wineclubs and people with a general interest. You will find anything from the uttermost expertise to ditto lack of the most general knowledge. Common however is a big interest in learning more.

We use - like most of the others - a simple decoration: Table, white tablecloth, a couple of chairs and a map to be able to point out our area - Cote de Blancs and the smalltown Vertus - and leaflets that present the cooperative and its wines. Amongst the other winemakers some have brought their fields into the room with a little collection of dry branches, leftovers from the winter pruning of the plants. Some have brought a piece of their field, a rather big and pretty piece of slate. And then others presents samples of local specialities to eat with the wine. The cheese and sausage is presented on blue and white Royal Copenhagen porcelain. A true holy trinity of French and Danish culture.

We pour drinks from the entire range of Eustache Deschamps: The normal Brut, a couple of Blanc de Blancs-champagnes made of pure white grapes to the rosé champagnes, one is the colour of salmon and the other a pretty and dark pink. In general a lot of people appreciate the new Millésimé Blanc de Blancs champagne with made of grapes from 1999 - Le Vertueux - others think it tastes too much white wine and prefer the normal Brut, a blend of red and white grapes. Also the visitors pay quite some interest in the Rosé Saignée with its extraordinary deep colour, which originates from leaving the skin of red grapes in the juice for some days.

Pictures from the exhibition: BK wine
List of participants: Maison du Danemark

05 November, 2000

Autumn cleaning

Diseased wine cut to bits and pieces.

Blue columns of smoke meander towards the sky from the now mainly yellow leaves on the wine plants. Many make advantage of the mild weather with grey skies and more than ten degrees Celsius of warmth to clean the rows and parcels of wine. Old and diseased plants must be taken away, before the crops will become too bad or the disease spread to the neighbouring plants.

A wine plant typically lasts 50 years, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. What matters is whether it produces good and healthy grapes. Only when the amount of fruits start to lower a lot, you start thinking about removing the plant and put another, since it is expensive and demanding work. If the entire field is to retire, you can use the heavy machinery, tractors and other machines that can pull and drag the up to 15 meters long roots into the light. But if only a few plants are to be changed, you must use your big scissors and spade instead and do you best to get at least some of the roots out of the soil. Which normally means no more than down to one meter or less.

The other part of the cleaning job is to help diseased plants further towards the final death. In our 200 meter long rows in average 5-6 plants in each row carries the disease esca, that in few years kills the plant from within, while it produces less and less grapes. On top of that the disease easily spreads. Especially during the harvest, where touching one diseased plant and then a healthy one is enough to spread the disease further. The only thing you can do is to team up with your biggest pair of scissors, cut the plant completely and finish by destroying the eyes in the stem, where the new leaves would normally start next spring. This treatment will lead to the final death.

Sad, diseased leftovers.

The sad leftovers - several meters long branches with yellowish leaves and wet grapes - I carry through the row to pile everything up in a corner below. Not excactly easy, since each plant participate to the party with several kiloes of branches, leaves and rotten grapes, that preferably must be carried in a way, where they dont touch any other plant to prevent further spreading of the disease. All I can do is to either lift everything with my arms over my head with the juice from the rotten grapes drip-drip-dripping down my hear or to carry everytning in front of me with the juice drip-drip-dripping down the sleaves of my shirt.

Three hours work end with quite a mountain of cut branches. Enough for one tractor to take everything back to the farm, where it will have to dry in a corner before it will finally be burnt. Only when there is no risk of spreading any disease the branches will be burnt straight away in the fields.

På dansk