Heavenly spheres

One sunny afternoon this week I took my camera and went into the vineyards, to watch the vendanges of my friends Nadia and Cyril of Domaine la Madura.  The vineyard I visited was planted with a variety called Carignan, appreciated for the elegant structure it can bring to a wine and the plants in this vineyard were pruned in goblet fashion (we’re getting very technical here!).

The leaves had already started to change colour a little and the plants were hung thick with beautiful bunches of grapes.

Nadia and Cyril’s harvest is picked entirely by hand; each bunch of grapes is snipped  and then dropped into a small basket, so as not to crush the grapes.

Once the basket is full it is emptied into a crate, carried by one of the porteurs who follows the vendangeurs through the vineyard.

The crates get pretty heavy, and it I’m sure it can’t be an easy job to be doing all day long.  But the atmosphere in he vineyard is relaxed and the pace is not frantic, and the team enjoy a good banter despite the hard work.

There’s always some interesting wildlife to be found in amongst the plants – I’m not sure if this spider would bite, but it was impressive in size with the body about 2cm across!

The full crates get stacked, ready to be transported to the cellar where the transformation of the grapes starts in earnest.

And the taste of those grapes?  Absolutely divine: ripe, juicy, sweet, explosions of concentrated sun as you bite them…heavenly!  I bet they’ll make good wine!

Spring is on the way?

This week has been under the sign of spring!  With temperatures of up to 25 degrees I’ve been heading for the garden as much as possible.  One of the many jobs waiting to be accomplished is pruning.  Look at the tangled mass of branches in the picture – that’s one of the three kiwi vines in my potager, and it needs a good haircut!  Cyril from Domaine La Madura has lent me his electric secateurs and that makes the task less painful (blisters!) and much faster.  After five years of pruning the kiwis I’m still not entirely sure if I’m pruning out the right canes, but so far there’s been fruit each year!  My table grapes are also pruned already – I’m always amazed when I look at the cut glistening with sap, in some cases positively dripping.   (Continued after the photographs) –>

At the beginning of the week I decided to buy my seed potatoes to get them sprouted ready for planting.  On the way to Beziers the countryside was ablaze with trees blooming their hearts out – white, pink, some already leafing out, and others with flowers on bare branches.  It always gladdens my heart to see all that blossom!  With the good weather the cauliflowers I planted last October have come one very rapidly, and we’ve started eating them – cauliflower cheese, cauliflower soup, cauliflower with pasta, cauliflower on its own….  When it’s really fresh the flavour is absolutely superb, and it cooks in next to no time.  I will dig out Jane Grigson’s vegetable book for a few more ideas of what to do – there are four more heads in the garden to be picked!   Any suggestions??