Monday, 26 September 2011

Back to The Midi

It was an absolute scorcher down in the Midi and a very different world to the fresh, misty mornings of Bordeaux! Maitena and I set off early into the warm sunshine heading the back way from Narbonne through the Corbières and into Fitou. This old road brings back many fond memories. It was here, in the small village of Albas way back in 1998, I arrived fresh faced for my first French harvest and fell in love with the Midi. I remember sitting on the banks of the river Berre, fishing, waiting for the harvest to begin; a little different to today!

Fitou is where we find our old-vine Carignan. Rare, old vines give deep, rich colour and flavour with the silkiest of tannins not found on the young Carignan from the plains. We carried on up and over the Corbières and down into the stunning l’Agly valley and to my second home of Maury.

The valley was very busy in its usual harvest chaos and I was just in time to see the first XV du President grapes arrive at the winery. The fruit is quite stunning this year with perfect ripeness in the Grenache. The harvest was coming in thick and fast all morning and by midday we had 8 vats ready for Maitena to add yeast to tonight.

The afternoon was spent with Jean-Charles harvesting the Vent de Folie vineyards. The old vine Grenache vineyard is simply ridiculous; steep, hot and half a mile from the road! I hadn’t quite found my Maury feet and nearly came a cropper sliding down the slate soil but holding the precious crate of Grenache grapes safely with dropping any! When you finally get the grapes to the van its is so satisfying, each tiny 10kg box holding about 10 vines’ worth of grapes, carefully stacked ready for the winery!

Jean-Charles and his wife Celine do an amazing job and to see their grapes fermented in their garage they are overwhelmingly proud. Vivre JC: the best Grenache grower I know of! Is there a grower’s competition we can enter him into?


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