A Month In The Vines - May

A rigid wind tugs and pulls at tree-tops. In the low sky, herds of dense cloud push East across the horizon. There is a promise of rain in the air and as the church bells ring out the hour, vingerons in their tired white vans hurry from their lunch tables, along dirt roads back into their vines.

The warm temperatures and sunshine of March and April have ensured the vines are well advanced and the endless lines that have marked the landscape for the last months are gradually being smudge out under a blanket of verdant foliage. In the right conditions the vines can grow up to 10cm a day at this time of year and the lose tendrils and leafy young bunches twist and dance in the brisk wind.


For Jean-Pierre and Natalie the change in the weather is far from ideal. Racing to a small patch above the village of Auxey-Dursesss, their fears have been realised and some damage has already been done. Amongst the well-kept rows of leaves and branches, a number have broken away and hang limp from their mother plant, their young branches no match for the persistent winds.

Jean-Pierre and Natalie do all they can to minimise the damage. Today their task is ‘relevage’. A fiddly and laborious process of securing the vines amongst galvanised wires that span the hillside. The tight lines of wire are hitched up either side of their posts to support and protect, while supple branches are placed in between. Bringing the wires together, a small plastic staple is attached at intervals and Jean-Pierre and Natalie work up and down the rows, their fingers busy on the wires as if tuning a giant musical instrument.

The stress and worry is evident in the hurried nature of their work. For months this year they have tended the vines and to see broken branches hung about the vines is a worry. It’s not critical, but after three years of low yields in Burgundy, another bad harvest with take its toll.