Good Grapes

The girls are back in school, and Charlotte is (gasp!) in Grade 1 already. This means that every night Franck or I plunge into her reading book with her to sound out such words as “tapis“, “chat“, or “ananas” for her evening “devoirs“. They take school very seriously here – a little too seriously at times – and we’re all finding it’s taking us a little while to adapt to our new routine.

But today Franck and I temporarily ignored the towering piles of backlogged work teetering on our desks (the concrete bybroduct of summer vacation) and went out for a walk after lunch. From Villers-la-Faye or Magny-les-Villers it is pretty much impossible to go anywhere without going past and / or through some vineyards. So on our way back down from “Les Chaumes” we walked for a while through the rows of vines. These partcular vines, planted on the slope just a few metres behind our house, are planted with white “aligote” grapes that are typical of the “Hautes-Cotes“.

This summer July was stinking hot (and, of course, the heatwave peaked just as we were scrambling to finish Le Relais du Vieux Beaune for our first guests). August was very rainy and quite cool, but September is turning out to be nice and sunny and warm – today with temps going up to 30 degrees. Of course, this being Burgundy, the only question in everyone’s mind is “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE WINE?”.

In July the winemakers were wary – would this be an unusually hot summer like 2003 that would turn Burgundy’s famed output into something that tasted far too much like those rowdy, tannic wines from further South (quel horreur!)? In August they were inconsolable. Their vines needed the rain, to be sure, but if this cool, wet weather continued the weeds would be uncontrollable and rot could set in…but now that the weather has dried up and the sun has reappeared the winemakers are wearing sly, satisfied little smiles.

Franck and I decided to find out for ourselves, so we picked a few lovely little white grapes to taste on the way home. They were delectable. If their high sugar content and lovely balanced flavour are anything to go on, this year is shaping up pretty nicely indeed.