It is wine bottling time here in South West France.
The vats in which the new wine has been developing since last September/October now need to be emptied in order to get them ready for the grapes which will be picked in September.
And the easiest way to empty the vats of the now finished wine is to transfer it all to bottles.
Across the region pallets of empty wine bottles can be seen gathering outside chais (the place in a vineyard where the wine is actually made) and in vineyard car parks.
Cork trees through out this part of the world will have been stripped of there produce and about 13 billion wine bottle corks will have been made.
Cork is grown primarily on cork oak trees in countries around the western Mediterranean. It is harvested from the bark in a steady cycle. It is a truly renewable resource. The trees are managed to provide cork for about 200 years.
The first cork is harvested from saplings that are 25 years old. The tree is then left to regenerate the cork bark for between 9 and 12 years. The second harvest then occurs and the tree is again left to regenerate cork for another 9 - 12 years. This next harvest, 43 or more years after planting a new tree is the first harvest of cork suitable for wine bottle stoppers.
Wine bottling machines are quite expensive things, so at this time of year an interesting beast takes to the roads of this part of the world. It is the mobile bottling plant. These are rare and are only used for a month or two.
The whole wine bottling process has been developed onto this one truck which is then driven to the vineyard where the bottling is to take place.
Wine is fed in at one end, bottles are fed in at the other and presumably, somewhere inside the machine there is a vast store of corks although I didn't see that.
The machine works at a fairly swift speed and everyone else has to run to keep up. There is a man transferring bottles from pallets to the bottle store. There is a man overseeing the bottling itself and making sure the wine and the corks are going in the bottles
There is another man packing the now full bottles into boxes and then a couple of guys are running about stacking the boxes, each of 12 bottles, onto pallets and finally, a fork lift truck is working away, taking the pallets of bottles to the back of the truck and taking the pallets of finished boxes away, out of the way.
I happened to pass one of these machines on Friday and went back to take pictures.
All the guys working the machine were happy for me to photograph it and bring this piece of La Vie Français to you.
You all will realise that these photos are far too good to be of my hand. I would like to thank Cassie of How Does Your Veggie Garden Grow for the loan of a much better camera.