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The Early Grape Harvest

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Grape harvest volunteer, Spain
Grape harvest volunteer Pou de Piques

I should have written about this in September, but urgent matters took me abroad.  So now I am back and trying to remember the details of Domingo’s wine harvest  – which is a little hard. Lol.  I think it might have flashed by in an alcohol-assisted fog and aging memory.  So what is new?

Waiting to be picked

I have been to several grape harvests and they were all very different.  At the  huge enterprises with dozens of staff and sophisticated equipment, it was generally impressive, but not particularly personal.  Basically I took the photos and went.  At others I fell in between, with the odd spark of genuine engagement, but still an outsider in the end. Pou de Piques’s fledgling vineyard with its scattering of excited volunteers was quite a different story.

A sunny smile that warms the heart

For starters, it was unexpectedly emotional.  That kind of tingly emotion you rarely experience, but results from an impromptu kind gesture given by a stranger with nothing to gain.  Everyone knew each other, but not our small band of Carol, Miguel and yours truly. All the same we were welcomed like family.  An additional plus for me were the beaming faces – a sheer joy to photograph,  Some I swear could have easily made it as actors in different circumstances.

In any other life a famous actor

 Even Domingo’s mum Pepita stopped hiding from my camera – I no longer needed to sneak around pretending I had not snapped her from the side or indeed any other angle.  The same cannot be said of me. Carol took some funny rear videos of me jumping around and quite frankly that is the only view I can bear these days!

Oh well, Pepita said, it’s all in a good cause

Of course the peak for us all was breakfast, not ham and eggs with some ghastly chips, but a veritable feast! This spread of Pepita’s gorgeous home-made food and Domingo’s excellent wines loosened the tongues and emotions and much more.  Our excited banter increased in rhythm with the plates passing up and down, and up again. Then, just in case we had not gorged ourselves enough,  our excess was topped off with coffees, almond cakes and chupitos (shorts). 

A feast of feasts to fuel the harvesting to come

Thus fortified, the volunteers swung back into action with renewed vigour,  I staggered. Carol swayed.  Miguel lent strategically against the farmhouse. The cheerful locals tried their best but lagged behind the old pros who had come from Morocco years ago and never returned. Indeed why would anyone here want to leave?  

Some came from Morocco many years ago

Grapes were tossed into baskets, and baskets into crates and crates carefully stacked onto trucks. But not before anything a bit suspect was removed.  Thus they made their way up the hill to be tipped into extracting machines set up in the very space where we had just eaten. 

Domingo’s uncle competes for the best actor prize
 
Spinning through the grape crusher

As the frothy liquid filtered out, Domingo sampled the whites and the reds in order to discern their unique qualities for that year and how he would eventually come to prepare and mix the various varieties.  This of course is a short shallow explication of wine making, but we are not at university here.  He was, and did an prolonged apprenticeship in France afterwards – just so you don’t think this is a whimsical hobby.  I tried the white and its citric raw sweetness was truly very pleasurable. Wow! What an informed critique!  I hear there is an intensive 3 weeks French language course in Bordeaux University which specialises on learning about wines. Maybe I should go?

Sampling the freshly crushed grapes
Sampling the freshly crushed grapes

With reluctance, always when it comes to wine, I had to leave shortly after in order to prepare for a ridiculously early flight the next day.  We all look forward to this year’s result, indeed last year’s too!  I have yet to taste it as the bottles were just only being prepared and labelled at the end of September. 

Grapes begging to be picked before it is too late

Of course we put our orders in ages ago.  The wine from Pou de Piques does not gather dust.  Whoever has tasted it, has always come back for more and the shelves empty before they can be filled.

The forgotten dress
The forgotten dress in the vineyard

Just a little postscript – this day was dedicated to a small harvest of the newer vines and the rest was carried out over the next two weeks while I worked in a very rainy Liverpool.  Que lastima! Meanwhile I am still wondering who forgot her dress!

To see a gallery of continually updated photos  click here

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