I finished pruning the vines yesterday, finally. It's funny how we get lots of people willing to come and help pick the grapes, spending warm, sunny autumn days in the vineyard followed by good food, good wine and good company, but no one ever is begging to come help prune. Could it be there is no desire to stand in the sucking mud on a cold, cloudy day with a light drizzle falling, bent for hours at just the wrong angle, snipping branches off a winter-dead vine? As the wet slowly creeps up my pants leg, my fingers go numb (which is a good thing – I can't feel the blisters) and the dogs, giving me one last 'you must be crazy look', leave to go lie by the fire, I wonder "Is it worth it?"
When we bought this property we were all excited. "Vines" we told everyone. "We have vines!" "We are going to make wine!" Then, reality. We thought we had 6 or 7 rows of vines (we have 18) with, maybe, 150 grape vines (over 650) that would make 100 or so litres of lovely wine (500 litres of questionable quality). We would lovingly tend the vineyard which, in turn, would reward us with great pleasure and fantastic wine. It's back-breaking, non-stop work that, along with the other 5 acres we have in our keeping, does not allow us to stop and smell the roses (we have over 100).
All of the vines have to pruned in late winter. Starting in April they have to be sprayed against mildew every 2 weeks or after every rain, which ever comes most frequently. All summer they have to have long, unwieldy branches tied in place and grape bunches thinned on a regular basis. Finally, the chore that involves the least amount of effort, the picking, is ready to be done and people flock in from all over to help. Actually, that is the reward we get for all of our labours, friends coming to visit for a lovely week in September. It's not the wine.
Wine is cheap here. We can get a perfectly drinkable bottle of red for under 3 euros (or 3 dollars). The grapes we have are for rose wine. The wine they make is rather sweet (if you like Mogan David Concord Grape you'll love this) and very pretty. I drink it mixed with a bit of Perrier. But we get 500 litres! Even if we loved it, and all of our friends loved it, we couldn't get rid of 500 litres every year! That's almost a bottle (remember a bottle is .75 litre) for both of us every day – with no time off to drink the Margaux! But we can't tear the vines up; they've been here for years. We have to tend them, can't let them go to waste. We can't sell the wine…and if we could, who would by it? Everyone around here has there own grapes. So there it is, my good German Catholic upbringing forces me to carefully tend the grapes and make the wine….and, of course, we can't let the wine go to waste….think of all of those thirsty people in…! I have no choice ….Cheers!