After a period of two weeks which feels more like two months, the sunshine has finally returned to south west France today.
This morning we got up to a pleasant, clear day and by lunchtime the sun was shining bright in the late autumn sky. Sadly, it didn't have enough strength to chase away the cold which has enveloped us here for the past couple of weeks but temperatures rose to almost 20C (68F) although they never quite reached that peak remaining stubbornly a couple of degrees below.
It will be good news for my friend Bernard though, who I saw on Friday when I called in with some guests to buy a bottle of his sweet white dessert wine, Monbazillac, and who was telling me that this year's vendange was being quite problematic because of the poor weather.
When making Monbazillac wine, the grapes are left on the vine until they get attacked by the fungus, botrytis. Moist conditions are required for an infestation of botrytis on the ripe grapes but then the grapes need to be exposed to drier conditions which concentrate the sugars. This process is known as noble rot and is the essence of production of sweet white wines such as Monbazillac, which will keep for upwards of 60 years after a particularly good vintage.
However, if the botrytis infestation occurs and the weather then remains wet, the rot quickly turns to grey rot which can destroy the whole harvest.
Because of this requirement to select fruit which are at exactly the right state of infestation, the grapes are picked by hand and several passes through the vineyard need to be made. Monbazillac is a sweet dessert wine made from 80% Sauvignon, 15% Muscadelle and 5% Sémillon grapes.