back again and waiting for spring

No news should always be good news – but it’s not exactly what you are looking for, when you come back to this blog. So I have to explain, why you didn’t find any new post during the last 2 years.

Well, it’s mostly good news: since November, the wines from our 2011 harvest have found their way down into the barrel-cellar by going through the bigger model of our traditional wine-presses.

cleaning the wine-press after harvest 2011

What we call our “press cake” had a beautiful colour and went into the garden to join the compost.

press-cake

press-cake

We did the usual washing up and then stored it all away, hoping to need the bigger model again for the next harvest.

All you never wanted to know about pruning vines:

When the last autumn leaves had fallen, we started one of the most important works in the vineyard: pruning – which means preparing the next harvest, by deciding, how many buds we will have in spring, so how many grapes will be possible and finally which quantity of harvest we will have in autumn . At least that’s the theoretical part – between this decision and the final result, there are all the non controllable things that can happen – frost, hale, grape diseases or – like very often during the last years – wild animals in love with your grapes…

Bur let’s stick to the theory: I started with the grape variety, which needs the longest period to ripen its grapes: in our case, that’s the Mourvedre – starting late in spring and asking for a long sunny, but not too hot period in late summer and far into autumn, to give us it’s best.

old pruning scissors

old pruning scissors

For years, I used the traditional pruning scissors for this – till I started to suffer terribly from aching arms – especially, if I spend the day in the wines and the evenings at my computer…

electrical pruning scissors

electrical pruning scissors

And so I finally it was a great progress, to have electrical scissors with a battery back on your back, which have also the advantage, to leave one hand free, to collect the woods you cut away: makes work much easier –

electrocoup

electrocoup

and – joined with a orthopaedic arm stand for my mouse hand at the computer, I can say that my arms are like new:-) and I’m no longer afraid, when pruning season arrives…

pruning

pruning

As we want to obtain ripe grapes with concentrated flavours, I prune severely: 3 arms with only one apparent bud – so theoretically enough new wood in spring, to give 6 new branches with around 5 grapes for the whole plant to nourish.

Mourvedre pruned severely

Mourvedre pruned severely

As you can see, we use the traditional form for most of our grape varieties: it’s called Gobelet around here – it’s well adapted for varieties which have tough, upstanding branches which don’t need any external support in spring and summer – ideal for Mourvedre.

And our special climate so far during winter 2011/2012

and then, after a very mild period in December/January, which made us believe, that nature would start its spring circuit very early this year, buds nearly breaking out, even on grapes in some region, winter arrived heavily in February even in the South of France – with lots of snow in many regions, and in the Languedoc with cold winds and lower temperatures than we ever had since 1985  due to a well named Russian cold front and everything got paralysed:

ice wonderland at -10°C

so I had to stay inside and wait for better conditions to continue the work in the wines.

And off and away to show our wines!

 

Well, you may be reassured, I find enough things to do – there is cellar work and the preparation of our OFF participation in the great event of VINISUD 2012 next week, well named “Vignerons Hors Piste”, which means “outside the main stream roads”, but also skiing in deep snow away from the prepared  slopes….

hors piste - off the main stream roads

Vinisud is one of the biggest French wine-trade-fairs for professional buyers. It unites winemakers from all around the Mediterranean Sea in Montpellier, our Languedoc capital, and attracts many  international retalers and journalists. And as a small winery, we prefere a cosy off on Tuesday, at the Aeroport Hôtel, not far from the official expositon, where we are only 25 winemakers united in the same spirit of mostly organic winemaking and with more time and space, to present our babies to less but relaxed visitors than inside the great show. You can see some picture of our 2010 edition of this event on our common French blog.

So if you’re around in Europe and the South of France in February, on Tuesday 22, you’re welcome!

More information in English about Vinisud and it’s ons and offs on the very informative and sometimes even humorous blog of Ryan O’Oconnell , a young American guy, living as a winemaker and wine geek in the Languedoc.

I’ll tell you more about the results in my  next post… still waiting for spring to arrive….

 

 

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busy month of August – some good ad some bad news

After the lazy Sunday there was a large gap without any news from Lisson. But that doesn’t mean, that I spend my time reading books in the shadow or bronzing at the nearby Mediterranean seaside (Narbonne Plage at only 60 km from here…).

No, it means rather that it has been a very busy month for me. With a lot of work going on in the vines – which always need cleaning, not to get overgrown by our wild herbs and to keep a salutary, easy drying “atmosphere” around the grapes.

This is Klaus’ work with the brush-cutter – as already shown in June in my article “Ty it up and keep it clean”. Normally there may also be some spraying necessary in the beginning or August (to do it later, would be harmful for the indigenous yeast on the grape skins).

But this year, after a short attack of oidium (powdery mildew – you remember?), we could put away the sprayer and it was not even necessary, to apply copper against mildew – as there wasn’t any (or at least only some small spots, which were quickly dried out by our tramontane winds). So you will have to wait for next year, if you want to see me reporting about my “man in blue” in the Lisson vines.

The good news is, that our grapes went on changing color during all the month, from green to a mixture of green, mauve, purple to nearly black – as we grow mainly red varieties:

Mourvedre 08/01/09

Mourvedre 08/01/09

Mourvedre 08/21/09

Mourvedre 08/21/09

Mourvedre 08/28/09

Mourvedre 08/28/09

You can see, that the branches too changed color, they have become ridged and more wood-like during the last 4 weeks and can now support the growing weight of those grapes. Even the stems are becoming less green, which is important, because we don’t destem after harvest, so if they stay too greenish, we would have a risk of “green” tastes in our wines.

We also had to work on our electric fences, as every year. One of the biggest problems of our vineyard in the middle of the woods is not linked to diseases or even – keep your fingers crossed – bad weather, but is linked to grape lovers, we didn’t count on when we cleaned the hillside to implant our vines: I’m talking about wild boars, badgers and all the other grape lovers on four legs…

Amy from La Gramire talked about them last week – and I wish her more luck than we had, in spite of our solidly fixed 5 fences with batteries and solar panels: when they really smell our fruit – and they know exactly, when it’s is about to contain enough sugar to be considered ripe enough, to give us good wine, they arrive from the woods all around and brave the fences (or dig underneath), and can make a tremendous damage in only one night:

they are inside...

they are inside...

Cot (Malbec) 08/21/09

Cot (Malbec) 08/21/09

Pinot 08/21/09

Pinot 08/21/09

Merlot 08/28/09

Merlot 08/28/09

So the bad news is: nearly one third of our harvest has already disappeared, gulped up by all those animals, who don’t have any serious enemy left – except the hunters, who killed already two of them in the middle of August besides our vines, but who are “overrun” by the enormas amount of wild boars around in our area, since they tried to augment their number about 20 years ago by setting free a cross-breed of domestic pigs and wild ones, which has invaded everything ever since – and as they can give birth to twice as much piglets and bring them up without any problem, as our mild winters and all the oak and chestnut woods, which are no longer cultivated, give them more than they need to eat… cultivating fruit, grapes or even a vegetable garden is about to become impossible in our area…

And it doesn’t help and console me, that some people take it as a proof, that organic farming is superior to conventional farming, as even boars prefer non chemically treated grapes – even it it was true (and so a very “natural” labeling) – it doesn’t give me back the result of a whole years work and it won’t fill my barrels and the bottles later…

So: Good luck to you, Amy, I will keep my fingers crossed for your Roussane!

And you may all do the same for our late riping grapes as Mourvedre, Cabernets and Petit Verdot, who are not yet sufficiently ripe to start “rescuing” them…

lazy sunday at Lisson…

finaly the weather forecast is up to our hopes: dry, sunny, but with around 28 degrees Centigrade (82 Fahrenheit) no longer the canicule we had last week and which stressens the plants and makes every work in the vines a mere nightmare, and no new thunderstorms anounced for the next days – our grapes will be able to ripen slowly but surely, like this beautiful Mourvedre behind the house

mourvedre 19 july 09

mourvedre 19 july 09

So I took a lazy sunday off, to bouquine – which means to sit confortably in the shade of our wild vine pergola and read some of the books stocked in a pile for months or weeks and waiting for a closer look and comment. For this sunday, I choose three of them, all written by women – in different manners all about wine, two French, one American.

I had a look at all three, when they arrived (thanks to Amazon and Co, who made my valley less lonely), but I wanted to go through them pencil in hand, keep more than a “first glance, first sniff” impression, to see, whether there is some mouth-feeling, some longueur en bouche – whether they tell me something about the author behind the book which goes au del of the jacket blurb…

bouquiner

bouquiner is not simply to read...

One is about “The battle for love and wine”, the other one about “Les femmes et l’amour du vin” and the third a socio-ethnographic research about the market of excellence “Les grands crus a l’epreuve de la mondialisation” – so it will be funny, to find out, whether after savoring each separately, there will be a book-pairing possible in the end:-).

To start my tasting, I took the one, which arrived already before Christmas in my letter-box – as one of the presents, I gave to myself, sticking to the French saying: On n’est jamais aussi bien servi que par soi meme (for my French readers: wordpress doesn’t take any accents…, sorry!).

A good choice to stay awake in my cosy corner in the shade:-)! suivre…

ty it up and keep it clean…

Flowering goes on, even the Mourvedre started and our first heat wave (86 F /30 C) during the last days helped our sulfur spraying to do it’s work – no oidium (powdery mildew) on the leaves, and a heavy wind prevented mildew so far, so no copper spraying not yet needed.

The vines are not only growing, they seem to be shooting up every day – and they are looking for support where they can find it:

tendril 1

tendril 1

Each has it’s individual way to take hold of the wires with a hard grip

tendril 2

tendril 2

or more graceful and you never find the same constellation twice

tendril 3

tendril 3

and they are even inventive, when the space seems already taken.

tendrils mariage

tendrils mariage

and where there is no wire, they work together in mutual help…

Some of the upright Mourvedre plants are already higher than me (which is not so difficult…:-)… and as this is a grape variety with vigorous stems which don’t bend easily to the ground, we can keep them without wires or trellis systems as individual plants and they are formed and pruned in the socalled gobelet (goblet) system, typical for many vineyards of the South of France. You will learn a lot more about them next winter, when you may accompany me on my long and lonely pruning days in the vines…

Mourvedre behind Lisson farmhouse

Mourvedre behind Lisson farmhouse

As you can see easily, we have to continue the “cleaning” of the vineyard, which started already early this spring,and consists in brushcutting the natural herbs and flowers, before they become a source of humidity, which would once again spread fungus to easily to the leaves and the fruit, if aver we have a rainy period. No tractor possible in our steep vineyards and narrow terraces, and as we would never use chemical weedkillers on our land, this is never ending hard work.

Klaus started behind the house early in spring

brushcutting

brushcutting

Then we went on to the upper terraces with Pinot Noir, which is an early “starter” among our grape varieties – also trained in gobelet shape, but with individual wooden poles, to bind up its much more supple stems later in summer.

Pinot clean

Pinot clean

And as we had some rain in May, he has to restart the work downhill again…

terrasses of Les Echelles and oliv trees on a sunny morning in june

terrasses of Les Echelles and oliv trees on a sunny morning in june

a never ending story as so many things in nature and agriculture…

dancing vines and more flowers

Some thunderstorms during the last week, but luckily no hail – and in between once again some sunny days – looks a bit like April weather at the moment, with temperatures changing easily bout 10C (50F) from one day to the other…

Once again, I walk the wines uphill, to see, whether everything is all right, if there are no signs of leave-diseases, like mildew or powdery mildew, which would urge us to spray. As we try to work by limiting spraying in the wines to the strict minimum, we have to be attentive. Till now, we just has one passage of sulphor powder in the small Echelles terraces, to prevent oidium, as powdery mildew is called in France.

spraying sulphor

spraying sulphor

It has to be done with a back-pack-sprayer and a helmet, to protect from the sulphor dust… and is not the most pleasant thing to do…

But fortunately, we often have good wind after a rainy day – our preferred is called tramontane – a straight north-west, our local version of the famous mistral, which helps to dry the leaves on the terraces rather quickly, so fungus has less chance to spread around.

I couldn’t resist to take some photos of the fresh vine shoots against the sky – performing their elegant dance in the breeze…

dancing vines

dancing vines

All different in their elegant movement

dancing vine

dancing vine

listening to a secret melody

dancing vine

dancing vine

And while the shoots are growing every day, the flowering of the little grapes goes on. In a few days, even the Cabernet Sauvignon started

flowering Cabernet Sauvignon

flowering Cabernet Sauvignon

– now we will just have to wait for the Mourvedre – the “latest” to flower and ripen of our grape varieties, which is the base of our Cuve Clos des Cedres.

Mourvedre and solar pannels

Mourvedre and solar pannels

We’ll talk about the solar panels in the background later – it’s our way to produce all the energy necessary at Lisson:-).

the delicat aroma of flowers

A new delicious smell in the middle of honeysuckle, old roses, red valerian, broom and other flowering companions, which color the small bouquets I bring back from my vineyard:

flowers from a walk through the vineyard

flowers from a walk through the vineyard

it’s delicate, pure, it has to be the event, we are waiting for at this time of the year: the wines start flowering.

flowering Chenin

flowering Chenin

I follow my nose – that should not yet be the Mourvedre, known as rather late, directly behind our house – but my nose directs me in the field. And now I see them: some wines of Chenin and another “stranger”, which I would’nt find in the small edition of the ampelographer’s bible written by Pierre Galet . it’s one of our rare plants of Carmenere, which we multiplied ourselves by grafting some wood we took at the ampelographic collection of Domaine Vassal at Marseillan about 15 years ago.

As it is a near parent of Cabernet Franc, I continue my ascension up the terraces of our Echelles de Lisson – Lisson’s ladders, to have a look, and I’m overwhelmed by the same smell. Further up, the Cabernet Sauvignon will follow his cousin soon – and Pinot end Merlot up on the hill are always early too.

wild flowers in the wines

wild flowers in the wines

I’m pleased that we had already the time to brushcut the wild herbs among the wines, were the soil is clean, you can see the wines dancing with pleasure, with their fresh green colors, without any disease for the moment.

Pinot Noir - Clos du Cure

Pinot Noir - Clos du Cure

During the flowering period, we don’t like to interfere in the wines, not to disturb this delicate moment, which is decisive for our 2009 harvest. And I have some pitiful thoughts for my colleagues in the Bordeaux and Beaujolais region, who already encountered thunder and hailstorm several times this year and have lost part of their future grapes.

Coming down again through the terraces, I have a closer look at the olive trees: yes, they too will flower soon, you can see the first timid blossom…

flowers olive trees

flowers olive trees

And in some days, the sweet chestnuts will join another aroma to our valley – omnipresent for some days

sweet chestnuts in blossom

sweet chestnuts in blossom

– it’s a pity that I can’t include all these fragrances into this blog for you:-)…