Monday morning here in the beautiful Medoc region of France, and it’s full steam ahead for grape harvesting, and my first full week here.
It’s easy to sleep restfully even finishing off a bit of jet lag- the nights are so quiet and peaceful here in the French countryside, with only the occasional sound of feet on gravel, or night creatures stating their presence. No television and shaky WiFi leave us to our own devices (phones, haha) for evening amusement. Fortunately I have endless editing, and of course, writing these posts.
This morning we got access to a water tower close to where both the French and Portuguese teams of pickers were working, so we were able to be above them in a birds’ eye view of sorts, snapping pics of them in action with the beautiful estate bringing up the background for composition. They are quite efficient- the managers (who are permanent employees here) place flags on the rows to be completed, and the pickers systematically make their way down the long rows of grapes in large sections, clipping out the fruit rapidly and tossing it into plastic bins which, in turn, are loaded onto one of many strong man’s backs where a unique tray has been crafted to hold about 5 full bins at once. He then walks those over to the waiting cart (pulled by a Clydesdale horse) which is filled up and then taken to be processed immediately. The horse takes the full cart of at least 50 trays full of grapes over to the Operations center (for lack of a better term) where forklifts lift them up to the second floor for the next stage. After taking the photos of the picking itself, John went into town alone for provisions (water, drinks) while I went into the operations part of the vineyard to capture photos of the massive effort that occurs from grape to barrel. Another Portuguese team upstairs receive the grapes in a steady receiving line, and they are tipped onto a ramp where they accumulate, spilling gently down on a large rack where some workers remove leaves first. From here the workers roll them through slats in the wire mesh and most of the stems stay on top as the grapes cascade through the net onto a stainless steel filter that pours directly into a waiting immense stainless steel container below.
There was a Chinese film crew on the grounds today too, recording their own segment of the hub of activity, and I met Pontet Canet’s Sales Manager David who most graciously introduced himself and felt obliged perhaps to explain who the other camera-toting folks were! There is a constant string of visitors to the Pontet Canet estate- and one of the lovely employees Violette is forever pulling one country’s flag down the flagpoles on the lawn and stringing a new one up to welcome the nationality of the next incoming visitors, sometimes multiple times a day! They do not overlook a single detail here in this wonderfully classy operation! She is very fit and energetic- likely both an asset and a pre-requisite to the job she holds. She stopped kindly to chat with me briefly and confirmed that by day’s end her legs ache each night!
The wind was a bit too strong to fly the drone today, much to John’s chagrin, but instead we went out to the vineyard for sunset and happened to run into the wonderful owner Alfred Tesseron and his beautiful wife Isabelle out for a stroll to enjoy the beautiful skyline. Wonderfully down to earth people, I had the privilege of walking and chatting with them for a few moments. Alfred said that he wants this experience to be entirely “through my eyes” and up to my interpretation- a wonderfully freeing allowance to be granted to an artist photographically in a place such as this. I even managed to sneak in a quick portrait of the two of them, something I felt fortunate to do!
Thanks for following and of course, more to come!