A Month In The Vines - June

Above lush tendrils and leaves, swallows swoop and dart picking-off the insects that hover and glisten in a balmy evening light. The air smells sweet and the rhythmic hum of a tractor dilutes the calm, methodically climbing and descending the luminous rows of vines that carpet the landscape.

The days are at their longest and the sun still hot. Late in the evening the sun ends its lazy ark and Jean-Pierre is using all the time he is given to trim the vines. Tired clichés of French work ethic can be forgotten. From dawn to dusk Jean-Pierre's day is a gruelling 16 hours but the vines will not wait.

Pulling water from the limestone shelf they have driven their roots into and basking in weeks of bright sunshine, the vines seem to get taller as you look at them. Hand-sized leaves soak up the suns energy while translucent tendrils twist and grip to support the ever-increasing weight of the plant.

Hidden amongst leaves, tendrils and shadows, this years vintage waits in the form of tight bunches of minuscule grapes that have flowered only days before.

In order to allow essential light to the young grapes and air to pass amongst the plants the vines are trimmed mechanically in a process called ‘rognage’. The wine makers want the plants efforts to be focused on producing grapes at this stage, and not to be wasted on leaf and branch growth.

Perched over the landscape on his tractor, Jean-Pierre drives up and down the countless rows. A menacing collections of sharp blades spinning over the vines trimming the tops of unwanted growth. Jean-Pierre's hands and fingers work over a baffling array of levers and switches that send his precise commands through a tangle of hydraulic pipes and cables.

As the sun sets and the cool air of the evening descends the tractor rumbles back to the 'domain'. Cleaned, sharpened and refuelled, Jean-Pierre can also return home, ready for the same routine the following day.