Today, it is back to school !

Pief rentrée PC3

Today it is back to school !

Everyone is buzzing around me, but I rather be helping papa patch up hoses, repaint grape hods and clean vats than prepare my pencil case and sharpen my pencils. Blimey – mama even bought me new shoes and papa some new boots.

But that’s ok, it has be said, the return to school this year is a little bit special, because I am going to start big school. I am going to join my two sisters who have already been there a few years. And it seems that they know almost everybody. Tomorrow my sisters will take me to my classroom and I reckon it’s going to be great fun afterall!

What I like more than anything about going back to school is that it means we are going to start the harvest soon, so who cares if I have to go to school because, as soon as the school day is over, my sisters and I will be allowed to run around in the winery to see what’s happening and we really love that!

 

Making hay while the sun shines

Fouin PC

In the middle of papa’s vines, in the direction of Grandma’s house, there was a field belonging to Mr Brotoleto. Papa had tried so often to buy this plot from him as it was surrounded by his vines, but Mr B said he still needed it to make hay for his few remaining cows.
From the start of the holidays we would keep a close eye on this field of tall grass and would sometimes go through it, despite the risk of our legs getting scratched. Each year it was the same procedure: wait for the grass to dry out – just enough, check the weather report, then mow the field.
We waited for the last stage – the day that the machine would come to devour the dry grass and leave behind those remarkable bales of hay. These seemed huge to us: I must say that even the tallest among us couldn’t reach 2/3rds of the way up the bales.

Once the machine had gone we would gather by the field from evening until nightfall.  And there we would to create our obstacle course. First, we had to move the bales, all by ourselves – often it took four of us to move them, at best three.

We lined them up and spaced them apart. We climbed on top (or rather we hoisted ourselves up with rope which we gripped tight) then we jumped from one bale to the other.  We made bridges with planks, or vine posts which we found in the corner of the store room.  We timed ourselves: it was like the TV adventure game show of the time. Intervilles, but amongst the vines.
We devoted ourselves to the game with heartfelt joy, ignoring the little cuts and scratches on our bodies.  We knew that it wouldn’t last long, that Mr B would end up putting the bales of hay inside before the next rain.  But before that happened we also knew that Mr B would come to papa to complain about the damage that we had caused during our evening games.
My father always ended up offering a box of wine to good old Mr B as compensation. The reprimand we got later was minor, compared with the pleasure we had had taking part in these forbidden games.
“This is the last time I warn you about your silliness” he said to us, but we knew that the smile lurking in the corner of his mouth betrayed a certain pride in his kids.

Little Courselle goes bike riding in the vineyards.

ThieuleyBikes

Crash … and snack !

These famous cousins of ours arrived the day before, a little too late for us to play straight away, but this morning I’m all excited by the idea of us going bike riding in the vineyards. How proud I am to show them around my huge playground. Having a race in the vineyards is easy because, the path is straight. I’m not saying it’s wide … but it’s straight. The hill behind the house is the steapest, so more dangerous.

Everyone is happy and those in need were given the bikes propped up against the corner of the barn. We pedal really fast, the idea of having a race isn’t there yet, but it’s bubbling away under the surface! Once we’re at the top of the slope we decide to have a race. Everyone in a line, otherwise it’s too narrow. One, two, three, go!

As kids it seems to us everyone is going really fast. And this incredible smell that engulfs us … it is delicate, delicious, almost intoxicating. It’s the smell of the vineyard in bloom. Mummy says she is indescribable, for me it is simply unique.

I won the race, naturally, because I know all the pitfalls of the descent ; my cousin Franck on the other hand, he fell off. He had red knees and felt a little sorry for himself, but we decide to carry on regardless and not to say anything to our parents to avoid getting into trouble.

On returning home, the band of adventurers have earned themselves a snack, everyone is happy and our little misadventure goes unnoticed. All Franck needs now a good piece of saucisson and maybe a swig of red wine on the quiet to forget the pain. It’s the best medicine.

PCrides

I’m dreaming of bottle necks … and I don’t mean traffic jams in the village !

PC mise

 

At the beginning of these Easter holidays I’m really excited by the idea of being part of the bottling or the « mise en bouteille » as we say … although actually I prefer to say « l’embouteillage » like papa. Now that I’m a bit older I’m going to be more useful than ever.

Last year I spent my days stamping the vintage on the wooden cases and recounting bottles in cardboard boxes. I know that’s not all that useful but I was just so happy to be there, taking part. This year they told me I’d be on the capsule machine, making absolutely sure each bottle is nicely capped with no creases. It’s really important to stay on the ball all day long and to look after your ears too because all those bottles clanking together make a heck of a racket.

I look admiringly at José at the other end of the bottling line. He has arms like Popeye and he works so fast putting bottles in boxes and boxes on palettes … one day I’m going to be just like him !

Rays of sunlight stream through the open door and light up the palette being stacked. It’s lovely outside and the vines know it. They are springing to life with all the sunshine and the longer days. If it is warm and sunny you can literally see them grow, so papa says anyway !

At this time of year it’s the red from the previous vintage going into bottle. A few months in barrel and – whoosh – into the bottle it goes. This evening for supper papa brought a bottle that had just been filled and « dressed » (label + capsule). Don’t tell, but I’d already given mum one with a slightly crooked label. Just so she felt part of it.

By letting me have a sip, papa made me forget how weary I am from the day’s work. I sniff the glass and wet my lips and my senses come alive. But before I know it I’m off to bed. There is no point counting sheep. The moment I shut my eyes, all I can see are bottle necks.

Petit Courselle’s Easter egg hunt

petit courselle pâques

 

As children at Easter time we were not fond of listening to the never ending Mass, all dressed up in our Sunday Best – no we definitely preferred the sound of the Sunday bells that announced the start of the Easter egg hunt.

Oh yes!! It was the chocolate we loved, and at Easter it came in all sorts of amusing shapes and sizes: an egg, a fish, a rabbit or even a hen … and the sugar paste decorations and praline fillings that embellished these works of art … and the ribbons, for which we would later find another unexpected use.

What would these famous bells be able to bring us this year we wondered?

The starting gong was always accompanied by the same old phrase “That’s it, and they are off!”

The egg hunt, strangely enough, was a bit like when we went to collect wild mushrooms with mummy. She would always spot them before we did, guiding us with the words “you’re getting warmer, you’re getting colder, you’re really close now.”

While all this was going on, Papa would head to the cellar to get his most recent vintage to pour for the family who were sure to turn up in their droves to share our shoulder of lamb and cepes.

So then, this Sunday, when we come to hide our eggs for our own children, we will be feeling nostalgic, but also excited by the time of year and we won’t hide our joy as we shout out to them: “That’s it, and they’re off!”

And when we gather around the table this weekend and offer our parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, our own 2015 vintage it will be with a feeling of pride, but also with a little anxiety – until we hear that completely reassuring phrase “Well done, your 2015 is fantastic!”