The vignes are looking good. Pleasant sunshine, the occasional shower and, thanks-be-to-God , the dreaded hail storms that love to destroy the young crops in the month of May have failed to arrive.
The tender foliage doesn't seem like much yet but if you lift it up you discover that they're already hiding little clumps of buds from which the baby grapes will be born in a couple of weeks time.
The young grapevines, which we planted late April, seem to be enjoying themselves too.
To keep ourselves occupied we are conducting an experiment. The grass, that we so painstakingly managed to grow between the vines a few years ago, is ploughed away again. If the soil is rich we might leave a little bit, if it's a little poorer we ruthlessly get rid of everything. Sometimes we remove the grass in the whole plot, sometimes every two or three rows.
In another of our little ventures we yanked out all the veille vignes from an entire plot.
As a result the chateau has now become as good as invisible, blocked from view by a towering mount of dead grape vines. Enfin, handy to keep the barbecue going, shall we say...
But pas de soucis, the piquets are waiting and the plough is hankering to get to work: next month we'll replant the cleared lot. Which we shall do with a regionally strictly prohibited species of grape. So svp, keep it to yourself!
Once upon a time, we accompanied a fisherman on his boat. We took to sea at the crack of dawn in a little wooden craft. In addition to a couple of exotic looking fish he found a hefty 'poulpe' in his net.
After we returned we each went our separate ways, until later on when the fisherman appeared at our door with a plate of crunchy grilled tentacles. They tasted heavenly.
Memories like that keep their glow for a long time. Whenever we find ourselves face to face with a crate of tentacled sea creatures at the market we feel the urge to take one home. But in our ignorance about squid preparation methods we always resist.
Suddenly the time has come. I have to finish my latest book and, this is a well-known fact, that's when all decent writers like to eat squid. At the local food market in Bordeaux we acquire a freshly fished specimen at ? 4,95, straight from the Atlantic Ocean.
Seeing as my culinary faculties have stagnated at Neanderthal level, my recipe is simple. Cut up and roast over fire.
There he is on the cutting board. His defunct eye examines me in quiet resignation. I realise that I am about to eat a being from the dawn of time. 500 million years old. I hesitate.
Fortunately Wikipedia teaches us that the Cephalopoda, or feet-headed creature, is a ferocious carnivore who doesn't even shy away from cannibalism. He ambushes his unwitting prey, grabs it and bites it to death with his hard parrot-like beak before tearing it to pieces with his rough rasping tongue. I plant the point of my knife in his ink sac.
A new challenge unfolds: in spite of the lovely spring weather it's still a little too chilly for an al fresco dinner. But any wineboer worth his salt is not so easily deterred and so we effortlessly change gears to facilitate an indoor barbecue.
The fragile invertebrate needs to be protected from blast-furnace like temperatures. With help of a rusty bicycle basket we manage to bring the grill at the desired height and place the decimated squid above the glowing embers.
While we await the cooking of our sea animal, we open a bottle of wine of a type which is locally banned and which we shall therefore not mention again.
The grilling-process is considerably longer than expected or desired, but eventually our cephalopodic friend is ready to eat. We carefully arrange the golden brown bites on a dish.
But no, what is this??! Overcome by fearful foreboding we examine the roasted meat in front of us.
Indeed: our hard-fought evening meal tastes like elastic bands, has the texture of a female condom and the consistency of a buffalo-leather dog toy. Although it could possibly be the other way around: the texture of a woman's toy and the consistency of a buffalo-leather dog condom.
Om onduidelijke redenen heeft de probleemstelling 'Hoe ontkurk ik een fles wijn' door de eeuwen heen uitvinders geïnspireerd tot bizarre oplossingen. Bovendien appelleert ontkurken, om eveneens onduidelijke redenen, aan een soort feestwinkelhumor.
This has led to a boundless array of corkscrews varying from perfectly okay to so unworkable that you'd be tempted to reach for the knuckleduster corkscrew pictured.
However, the very worst, the true scum among corkscrews, often referred to by oenologists as 'the Caveman', is pictured here.
If you ever spot it anywhere at a friend's, colleague's or neighbour's house, don't hesitate but quickly grab it and fling it into the fire. A suitable prey for the all-consuming flames, this unfathomable, preposterously unworkable non-appliance.
Last week our friend and colleague Dominique asked us if we would like to come to their heartbreakingly beautiful domaine to taste their freshly bottled Monthelie 2010. As it happens she and her husband make about the best Monthelie of Monthelie so we were in the car before she had even finished talking. Six hours later we set foot in enemy territory: Bourgogne.
While we were on our way to the wine cellar Dominique asked me if I could give her a hand; she had organised a wine tasting session for the next morning and in order to allow the wine to breathe a while she wanted to uncork the bottles now.
Oh my, that cellar. If I ever die, I want to die there; endless lingering rows of the finest Bourgogne wines. Velvety with dust, longing to be lovingly kissed and warm the heart and soul with a surge of sweet, soothing love.
But first there is work to do: during an altercation with their Renault-tractor, Dominique has broken her arm. Opening bottles of wine is evidently not on the cards for a while so she asks me to take that on; 120 bottles and 6 magnums.
And which particular implement has Dominique selected for this task? What is it that catches my eye there in the most beautiful wine cellar of Monthelie? What is that there, waiting in its entire monstrosity on that barrel? With what exactly am I to open a hundred and twenty bottles of Bourgogne? That's right! The Caveman!!!
Initially Dominique smiles when she sees me blundering about with the true scum among corkscrews. But soon she tenses. 'Careful!' her dismayed voice echoes through the vaults. 'Those bottles are 20 euro each!'
But thanks to an iron will and dogged determination, we're making decent headway and by nightfall the job is done.
And thanks to this friendly favour the wineboer himself has to stay in reserves..
If you want yourself a broken arm too, here's the address. Please note: if you do manage to open a bottle of Dominique and Eric de Suremain you will taste a most delicious Monthelie. Organically produced excellent for both body and soul. www.domaine-eric-de-suremain.com
You might think that when it comes to making wine the harvest takes up most of the work. But there is more to it than that. Would you like to know how wine is made?