On to Provence

Once again dawn broke with mist shrouding the vineyard and the valley below.

It was a day of great excitement at Clos Vieux Rochers. Grape harvest!  Shortly before 8:00 am several cars arrived with people to help with the harvest along with a camerawoman from BBC Four to film it for the upcoming season of A  New Life in the Sun. 

Wine really is a living thing. Yeast, which is a living organism, ferments grape juice into wine. As the wine ages in casks and in the bottle it continues to become more complex in flavour and aroma. So perhaps some of the excitement about the harvest is that it is the birth of a new vintage. The grower has no control over the weather. But the choice of the optimum day for harvesting the grapes can have an effect on the wine. No one knows at this stage how the wine will turn out. Only time will tell.

Grape harvesting

I could hear the sound of the harvesting machine coming down the road. Clos Vieux Rochers machine-picks their grapes. The harvesting machine straddles the row of grapes and, as it moves along the row, vacuums the grapes off the vine. The ripe grapes come away very easily. A laser in the harvester checks the grapes and selects only the round ones, the rest are ejected. The grapes coming out of the harvester are ready for the wine press.

Waiting for the grapes

Buckets of grapes

The Harvest

The Harvester

The harvester really does sound like a giant vacuum cleaner as it starts its work in the vineyard. I watched the machine go up and down a few rows before I had to return to the gîte to load up the car. We had a long drive ahead of us.

Before we left we were again interviewed for BBC Four about our experiences during the week and our impressions about the gîte, the winery, and the harvest that was taking place. Fortunately we could, with all honesty, report that we had absolutely loved our week at Clos Vieux Rochers. Steve and Rob had been incredibly warm and accommodating hosts. The gîte was extremely comfortable and the wine had been delicious!  We would have absolutely no hesitation at all in recommending Clos Vieux Rochers to anyone looking for a place to stay when visiting the Bordeaux region of France.

Then it was into the car and a short drive up the lane to where the harvest was taking place to say our farewells to Steve and Rob. We were sad to leave yet at the same time looking forward to the next stop in our adventure, Lacoste in the Provence region.

With stops for fuel and lunch along with very slow traffic when driving through Avignon, it took us nearly 7 hours to reach the tiny village of Lacoste. We met our host, Finn, and were shown our apartment.  A former stable below the house, the apartment is very comfortable  and absolutely charming. From the terrace there is a tremendous view across the valley to the village of Bonnieux.


Living Room


Our view across the valley to Bonnieux

A short walk around town quickly showed that I had come to a photographer’s dream. Everywhere I walked there were endless photographic opportunities.

Lacoste is a tiny medieval village on the side of a hill. Atop the hill, overlooking the village, are the ruins of an old castle – one of the Marquis de Sade’s chateaus. Most of the homes in the town are now owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design which uses the buildings to house their classes and students. Another segment of the homes is owned by Pierre Cardin. During the winter the village is pretty quiet with only a small number of full time residents. Unfortunately that means that most of the shops and cafes are closed, unable to make a living. There still are two cafes though, and we went to one of them for dinner.

From our apartment, about a block down the street in one direction is Cafe France. About a block and a half in the other direction is La Dolce Vita, our choice for dinner that night. A very nicely appointed cafe, we were shown to a room in the back. The room was lined with old photos of actors and actresses and an old black and white movie was being projected on the wall. Given the name of the cafe it was only appropriate that it was the movie by the same name!

Dinner was excellent and a perfect welcome to Provence!

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