Saturday, 17 October 2009

Dordogne and the Grapes

We have been on holiday - staying with my brother in the Dordogne. In 52 years it is only the third time we have spent more than a day in his company so it was a very special week for me. My brother has lived in Europe all his working life, he has a farm on Exmoor and a villa in Sotogrande (neither of which I have visited) but is only allowed to spend so many days a year in the UK for tax reasons. On his way back to Spain he and his wife have rented a big house in Villefrance du Perigord for six weeks , and he suggested we should fly out to Bergerac and join them.
The house was beautifully furnished with antiques and everything was of the very highest quality - it transpired that it belongs to a Member of Parliament who has never rented the house out before - do you think he needs the money now?! There was an elegant salon furnished with the sort of chairs you perch on, but also a television snug where we were able to watch the British news each day. There was a huge terrace overlooking the valley where we ate in the sunshine, my sister in law is a very good cook so I put on several pounds. We packed a lot into the week visiting so many Bastide towns and villages, markets and vineyards, everywhere was so lush and pretty and CLEAN AND TIDY, no wonder the Brits want to live there. But, oh, expensive! Just as well Mr. Ryanair restricted our luggage so severely - we knew we couldn't buy anything. However, I did treat myself to a lucious tasselled tablecloth with matching napkins in a pink check with a lime green insert - very chic. I thought if the luggage went overweight I would wear the cloth like a shawl! My sister-in-law had it in red so I know it is in good taste!
When we got back home after a week of unbroken blue skies and sunshine we found it so cold and the pump on the boiler would not work. We are awaiting the arrival on Monday of a 'proper man' to fix it, in the meantime, a log fire and an extra cardigan. Whilst we were away our lovely neighbours picked our grapes as a frost was threatened - and today was the day of the Crushing. George is Greek Cypriot and a physicist so he is in charge of method and technology, my George was second in command, Brenda and I were the assistants. Brenda had purchased two big plastic tubs which were both full of grapes - what a bumper harvest - and George I dug out the demijohns we had used in our wine making days forty years ago. It was a freezing cold day and we women both refused to take our shoes and socks off to tread the grapes so George II did it on his own, although he did confess it was very cold and uncomfortable to begin with he soon got into a rythm, helped no doubt by Brenda and I singing the theme tune from Zorba the Greek We used an old net curtain of my mother's to strain the juice which, I have to say, looked most unappetising. Most of the time we were helpless with laughter, goodness knows what state we shall be in if any alcohol actually results. Lots of suggestions were made for the name of this grande cru, most of which I would not dream of sharing with you.

The juice has been left overnight and tomorrow some sugar will be added and it goes into the demijohns. All the disgusting mush (with a good few squashed earwigs and other insects I might add) is going to ferment and be distilled. Excise men, turn a blind eye. Do not fret - I have a feeling it might all be binned before long, or am I being unduly pessimistic? Perhaps if it had been a bright sunny day and I had got my own toes round the grapes I would be feeling more optimistic.
We may have a bit of an argument over the naming of the Domaine, after all they are OUR grapes but George II pointed out that they were HIS feet that did the treading. It may have to be double barrelled. I see many hours of discussion over a glass or two (from Waitrose)
Incidentally, the photo at the top is NOT Villefranche - I dropped my camera one day and it seems I have knocked all my photos off the memory stick! Is that possible? Where have they gone? I took the grape photos successfully today, but some 150 pictures of my lovely week with baby brother have gone into the ether. I am so upset about it, but it was a marble floor and it did go with a big bang. Even clever George next door couldn 't find them. C'est un mystere !


  1. Wonderful to have you back Mavis - sounds like an idyllic holiday. Love the grape story... eagerly await the next installment!

  2. Nice post - pictures of grapes ..Keep Posting

    pictures of grapes