Friday, 21 October 2011

Chateau de Bel - The Final Entry

So this is it. My last day at Chateau de Bel this vintage. The last two weeks have been tough. To be honest, the écoulages (where we take the juice off the must and then press the remaining berries) have been the hardest work we have done this vintage. Happily though its more suited to me than the harvesting! My new nickname is 'The Human Press'.

It is very important to eat well, and this of course being France, meat is plentiful and brilliant. The entrecote in the following photo cost us 20 euros...

After five or six days of this, the body is completely broken. Shoveling all the grapes out of the tanks is hard and hot work, and also quite dangerous too. If you forget to ventilate the tanks before you enter, you can be completely overcome by the carbon dioxide that is left in there, and that is game over! Luckily however we did not forget to ventilate and everything was fine.

Its strange now. We have gotten so used to our routines and the work we are doing, that there is absolutely no stress any more. Everyone seems to know what they are doing from wake up to finish. It was odd when we got to the end of last tank, and we were completely finished, that it just seemed like a bit of an anticlimax. I was expecting some special light to appear out of the ground or even a party popper to explode and baloons to fall from the cieling, but no, nothing. It was a reminder that although the last tank was empty, the work is by no means over. Olivier and Veronique will continue to work for the next 9 months and for the rest of their time here at Chateau de Bel. The work of a winemaker is never finished!

I have got everything from this vintage that I wanted to. A basic lesson on how to make wine and the processes that are involved therein. What I have also discovered is that there are a few rules to working on a winery that you will never find in any winemaking book.

Bryns alternative rules of winemaking:

1) You can do almost anything with a piece of iron wire and a block of wood.
2) Dont drive a screwdriver through your hand. It hurts
3) The winemaker is always right.... even when he/she is wrong...
4) Wherever you go, make sure you take a thermos of coffee.
5) Hosepipes are evil and must be punished.

The most important there is number 1. It was incredible really, a piece of iron wire and a block of wood coped with almost any problem we encountered this vintage and they are certainly two things I will always keep close at hand in my vintages to come!

So there we have it. The 2011 vintage is over and I am very sad to be leaving. Although this morning, the Dordogne gave me a beautiful parting gift...

It was a beautiful reminder of the fact that I have been working in one of the most stunning environments in europe, and I can only feel grateful to Olivier, Giovanni, Anne, Veronique, Jean Louis, Michel and all the other people who have made the last 10 weeks one of the most fantastic experiences of my life so far. I am taking a boot load of wine home with me in the car, and hopefully everytime I take a sip, I will be reminded of the wonderful time I had here. Next stop South Africa in January!


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