18 September 2010

Where the grapes are

Life here in Saint-Aignan revolves around grapes. They're in the vineyards, of course, and on our table as wines. We walk through them every day. We admire them. We quaff them. They are an important part of the scenery, the taste, the smell of the region. And I speak as a consumer, not a producer and grower. Imagine what life is like for them.

The grape harvest — les vendanges, they are called, and the verb is vendangerje vendange, tu vendanges, nous vendangeons, ils vendangent — will begin this coming week. The weather is cooperating. Nights and mornings are chilly. Our low was near 45ºF this morning. Afternoons are sunny and, for the moment, dry. At least here in the north of France. Down south, they are having rain. But then their vendanges may already be done.

Grapes in September in the Renaudière vineyard
outside Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher

It's the time of year when all the supermarkets hold their Foire aux vins — their wine fair. A big section of the market is given over to shelves and shelves of bottles, six to a box instead of 12, with wines from all parts of France. Some supermarkets set up a huge tent in their parking lot to hold all the wine. Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Champagne, Loire, Rhône, and on and on. People load up their carts and head to the caisses with a supply of good wine for the year.

Around Saint-Aignan, we don't buy wine that way. Why buy bottles when you can buy wines by the jug and bottle it yourself? We have our own plastic jugs, and the people at the wineries and co-ops pump wine into them using what looks like a gas-station pump. It's more economical and it's more ecological, not hauling all those heavy bottles around.

We have our own supply of bottles that we've saved over the years. We have a corking machine and corks. We also use plastic stoppers that can keep the wines drinkable for a few weeks or months. The only thing we don't bother with is labels. We don't keep wine long enough for that to be worth the trouble. Besides, it's all wines from the Loire Valley — Touraine wines.

We hardly ever drink wine that comes from other regions of France. Here in Touraine, we have fine reds made from Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Côt (a.k.a. Malbec), or Pinot Noir grapes. We have superior whites made with Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, or Chardonnay grapes. We have still wines and sparkling wines. We have blends and varietals. We have sweet and dry wines.

We also have rosé wines — some of the best. Dry. Fruity. Sparkling. On the news yesterday, it was reported that the French now sell more rosé wine than white wine. A lot of the rosé gets exported, and a lot of it to America. I hope people over there are enjoying it.


  1. I think I begin to understand why the both of you choose this part of France. You're in heaven, le ciel

  2. Beautiful picture with the grape leaves turning Fall colors. So with "vendanger," is the accent on the first syllable?

    I lived in DC for a little while around the same time you did('80-'82)in the Schulyer Arms, where Columbia splits from Connectiuct. I enjoyed some fun summers in Rehoboth Beach back then. Blue Moon and the Renegade....

  3. i wish we could find more rose here....it is only available in summer and then the selection is pretty small...i dont think the general public knows what to do with it

  4. spectacular pix! the lighting in the 3rd with the green grapes is amazing. great work!

  5. Here in the Northeast US there's a lot of rose available. But it's true that the selection is far better in the summer. That's when most people tend to drink it.

  6. Lucky you, no rain. Here in the Pacific Northwest (Eugene, OR) we have been in a downpour state for two days. POOH, the pétanque tournoi I was scheduled to attend up in Portland tomorrow doesn't sound like much fun in this wet stuff.
    If you don't label your plastic jugs, do you keep the various types of wine separated by their storage locales?


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