“Carol! TRANSLATE PLEASE!” came Martin’s panicked voice from the courtyard as I was preparing our farmhouse gite for our first guests.
We’d been living in France a matter of weeks when our lovely neighbour arrived asking if we could help in her vineyard – what a privilege! So exciting and we were so up for it. What could be more French than working in the Cognac vines?
It turns out that the ‘relevage’ (annual lifting of the vines) is a great Summer-body work-out; a real cultural experience and, for me, romantic too.
Watching the sun rise above the vines as you are immersed into French lifestyle, culture and community is amazing. Daily chatter with our friends about gathering mushrooms, fattening rabbits, growing courgettes and how tomato crops are coming along means we’re learning so much as we forge friendships and our new life. Our lives have changed immeasurably. It’s a far cry from our former world of exam results, performance tables and attainment targets.
Having the time to appreciate the sun on your face, hear the birdsong coming from the forest and to really feel part of nature is the best stress-buster, ever. It feels special to be part of something so important and to think that the Cognac from the vines we’ve handled could end up around the world is mind-blowing.
The vines are truly beautiful from their delicate, tiny grapes beginning to flower to their gnarly, old feet which can be up to 80 years old. Growing at up to 10 centimetres each day, the vines are incredible.
We weave and tuck the new growth into the wires, making sure they stand “au-debut” like soldiers, ready for their haircut. Our mid-morning casse-croute of home-made pate on baguette is a real treat for us.
And the most rewarding part? Sitting beside our pool in the early evening, enjoying an ice-cold VSOP with fizzy raisin juice, knowing that you’ve played a very small part in the whole process.