The grape harvest had been underway for two weeks. I knew that the white grapes were picked first, then the red.
Every evening after school, I went through the same ritual: I’d pull on my boots and dash to the cellars. There was always something to clean, machinery to oil or some hoses to connect to the vats. After a while Papa would send me back to do my homework. Hmmph! Even though I loved school I preferred working in the winery.
While I practised conjugating verbs with my text book on the kitchen table, Mama would be lovingly preparing a mushroom omelette and at the same time making me recite these confounded irregular verbs. The atmosphere was studious until mama asked me “would you mind going to find a bottle of bourru?” I leapt from my chair, grabbed the plastic bottle Mama was holding out for me, a flashlight (it was starting to get dark and I wasn’t comfortable otherwise in the winery) and ran to the vat room.
Papa pointed me to Vat No.7 while he rinsed clean the last hosepipes. I took the stepladder to reach the little tasting tap and let this mysterious juice trickle out.
Mmmm, it smelled of fresh fruit, sweets and it frothed in the bottle … I couldn’t understand why, when friends came to get some every evening, my parents would say “Go easy, this juice can be a bit treacherous”. Once out of Papa’s sight I tasted this grape juice, once, twice, and so on …
it fizzed, it was sweet and the freshness of this perfumed juice really tickled my taste buds. In a word, I adored it!
When I gave the half empty bottle of bourru to Mama, I felt my head spinning and I then understood that this interesting beverage had something magical about it: it made us merry!
* Le bourru is slang for fermenting grape juice. It only exists for a few days each year, while the alcohol is around 3-4 %. The unfermented sugars make it taste deliciously sweet. It’s cloudy, it doesn’t keep and it doesn’t travel, so it is an entirely local delicacy … and one with mildly laxative side effects.