For the past two weeks I have been working in the winery at Chateau Mauvesin Barton, witnessing the next stage in a grape’s life. Here, they predominantly use machines for harvest – hence the above tragic tale. The grapes are shaken from the vines by a machine that isn’t dissimilar to a combine harvester, they are then transported by trailer to the winery where they are met by even more bits of snazzy kit. They are emptied from the trailer onto a grape escalator (terminology has never been my strong suit), then dropped on to a vibrating table that acts as a conveyor belt. Here a small team stands to fish out the undesirables: leaves, stalks, spiders and snails…newly homeless snails I might add. However, it seems that being homeless is the better of the two outcomes for these guys. I won’t go into the details of the other result but I’ll leave it at this: snail intestines are absolutely as disgusting as they sound.
To any vegetarians/vegans out there; I can confirm the wine making process is not exactly in keeping with your habits. So unless you’re one of the well-I-do-occasionally-eat-bacon types then you might need to reconsider your stance on wine I’m afraid. Or better yet, your stance on eating (just saying).
In terms of the various processes of vinification I witnessed, during the early stages while I was there, there were 3 predominant daily procedures:
Come the end of the day, the last trailer load usually coming in at around 5.30pm (on a good day), the cleaning operation then commences. I say ‘operation’ because frankly brain surgery would likely be both an easier and quicker procedure. Not joking. To put it in perspective, between 400-500 hectoliters of juice is produced each day. Generally speaking, between 130-160kg of grapes produces 1 hectolitre...seeing as I’ve entirely had enough of numbers I think it therefore suffices to say that it is an inordinate number of grapes. Now, grapes are a little like sand, they have a habit of getting in every nook, cranny and unbelievably irritating, far-fetched gap possible, so when that is paired with complex pieces of machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, really it’s no wonder that ‘nettoyage’ (cleaning) is rarely completed in under 2 hours (I’m now also extremely adept with a hose-pipe).
My next adventure starts next week in the city center of Bordeaux itself, where I’ll be working in for a wine merchant. I think going from the ‘chais’ to an office will be quite the adjustment but I can’t wait to get stuck in, so let’s hope I’ll be able to form some comprehensive French sentences over the coming days!
Until next time,