In conjunction with our How to find a Vineyard in France (Part 1 & Part 2), there is another story to tell in our unfolding wine making saga. This story began at a similar time, and developed along side, the discovering of SAFER and all we undertook with them.
The background… As part of living here, we are working to improve our language skills and start to fit in to the neighbourhood around us. The French are wonderful about inviting you around for drinks and nibbles of an early evening to get to know each other, and in our case a chance to practise our developing French, or sometimes their English. Either way, discussions about vineyards were generally soon to crop up and it was very heart warming how much everyone wanted to assist us.
It was at a reciprocal (very much how it is done here) drinks & nibbles with some neighbours that we were told of a nearby Chateau that had vines that were going to the birds, literally. It was possible the owners might be willing to let us have the grapes, rather than the birds and bees, to make into wine. Would we like an introduction? Can birds and bees fly?
Online introductions made, interest expressed in our involvement and we arranged a meeting with Chateau le Barreau to see the vineyard and discuss options. By this time, it was mid-September, so we were slightly optimistic that we might actually be able to make wine this year.
We met and were told the vineyard had come with the purchase of the Chateau, which is run as a B&B and with self-catering/gites. Given that we were in the midst of wine country we could understand the aesthetic reasoning behind having a vineyard adding to the atmosphere of the place. There were three types of grapes planted in 1.5 hectares; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier – the classic combination for a sparkling wine. Currently a gardener mowed between the vines, but essentially that was about it. Yes, the grapes were honestly going to the birds.
Then we saw we saw the vineyard. To say the birds were given free range was an understatement. Not only birds, but bees, bugs, moulds, mildews and weeds. It was going to be a project and a half. We were offered the grapes, as well as a small winery on premises to use, in exchange of taking care of the grapes and providing a few bottles of their own wine for guests. We were asked if we were interested?
We thought for a moment…
A chance to work a vineyard with 12 year old vines, okay in bad condition, but still – 12 year old vines, and with essentially no outlay? An initial free step on the path to our dream, okay with lots and lots and lots (did I mention lots) of work ahead? That would be a definitive, YES!