Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prunes and Grapes

This part of France is renowned for both it’s wine production and it’s Prune production. The hot long summer serves extremely well for "sun drying" plums as well as many other fruit and vegetables.

I particularly noticed the grape vines, all now standing up straight and clean after being visited by the local vintner for a wash and brush up. Vines, some of them 100 years old, have survived the winter as they were left after the grapes were carefully removed last fall. As soon as the weather warmed just enough to work back out in the open again, the grape growers returned to the fields, tending the vines, and pruning them by hand to leave just two short shoots with five buds on each. I find it quite astonishing that the wine production for the whole of this part of France will eventually grow from just two small branches on each vine.

Bergerac, my local wine region, produces about 42 million bottles of wine from about 20,000 acres. That’s 2000 bottles per acre. Out of interest, someone once told me that there were the same number of vines as the vineyard produced bottles of wine. So my friend Bernard, with 22 acres has about 45,000 vines from which to make his 45,000 bottles. He will have visited each and every vine over the past two or three months and pruned them by hand, cutting everything except the 2 branches with this year’s grape buds already on them, carefully selecting with his experienced eye, which buds to cut and which to leave. 45000 vines, 90 days pruning (7 days a week) it still works out at 500 vines a day! It makes my pruning look very small scale!!!

But now, the mammoth task is completed and the vines are ready for the uncertainties of the weather to encourage them to grow "just right" so that come the Fall, the grapes will be, exceptional!

This is a time of great hope in the wine communities of South West France

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