Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Is it a bird ... is it a plane? No just our new UFO style vat for the Chai!

The Dordogne Chai renovation was finally finished yesterday and today I can begin to move in all my new winemaking toys! The first arrival was the new state of the art tapered stainless steel wine vat, handcrafted by the world famous but local to us ‘Lejeune’ vat makers.

Making a vat is one specialist art, but the other is delivering them! These guys are experts and the team, headed by the experienced Jean-Marie, spend their lives travelling across the European wine districts squeezing custom made vats into inaccessible hillside villages of Rioja to the prestigious Chateaux of the Medoc. Some say Jean-Marie could deliver a vat in perfect condition to the moon if needed!

The team spectacularly manoeuvred the vat from the truck into the small door of the Chai to its final position, which had to be millimetre-perfect as the OxO Line men were arriving any minute to construct the barrel support frames around the vat.

The OxO line was slowly put together piece by piece like a gigantic Meccano set. I have worked in many cellars and it is quite incredible the number of bad decisions that have been made by people who have never worked in a winemaking cellar before. So I was close on hand to ensure everything was aesthetically pleasing to the eye but remained perfectly practical for the physical winemaking. There’s nothing worse or more pointless than an expensive oak barrel you can’t fill or empty!

With all the excitement I forgot to report on my minor accident on the weekend. That’s if you haven’t heard already as a local villager seems to have spread (and exaggerate) the news further than I have managed to travel since the incident! I made my first visit to the A&E in Libourne after slicing the end of my finger off whilst making a Catalan fish stew, the skinned slippery Chorizo being the catalyst for a very painful couple of days.

No more complaints about French people being work shy (in the health department anyway) as France does has have marvellous free health system, at A&E I was whisked in and out in no time at all. The Pharmacy gave me so much free stuff that on the way out it looked like I was looting the place and if that’s not enough a daily nurse is assigned to visit wherever you are located to ensure a speedy recovery.

Vine watch

During the last week things have certainly advanced. The excess buds have been removed and the extra energy channelled into the remaining shoots, creating the large green canes that now require tucking into the wires to support the huge sunlight hungry leaves.

The flowers are now fully visible and flowering will take place very shortly, so it's fingers crossed (no jokes please) that the weather remains calm at this so crucial time for the fruit set. Remember; no flowering, no grapes and consequently no wine!


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