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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

In this summer issue we take a look back stage on the set of a new season of Gort à la Carte and report on the recent Summer Harvest.

Allez, on y va!

In this Slurp!
Summer Harvest
Gort à la Carte

Summer Harvest


It's Sunday the 5th of July and the castle park is filling up with Dutch campers m/f.
'How is this possible?' you may ask yourself as it is exceedingly rare for Château la Tulipe to allow any visitors.


However it is the time of the 'Vendanges vertes', the green harvest, during which the excess bunches are cut from the vines. This results in a smaller harvest and therefore less wine but also in much better wine.
To help us carry out this hard labour we have invited a number of Dutch grape pickers m/f.


A slightly cool start of the year resulted in a beautiful, even fruit-setting which means that there aren't that many surplus bunches that need to be removed, and we can focus on pruning the shoots and the removal of foliage shielding the grapes from the sun.


At the break of dawn winegrower's son Klaas sets off into the vignes. This is the first year he's independently in charge of the green harvest.
Not a task to be taken on lightly, for we are putting the fate of an entire vintage in the hands of a troupe of strangers. Who knows, a bunch of amateurs like this might get overzealous and cut off all the grapes only to leave us with a barren field after their departure.


To prevent this and other mishaps from occurring the young team leader explains in capital letters to his équipe, what they need to do. This appears to be understood by all. In spite of the fact that picker Benjamin (with blue supermarket bag) has shown up this week because he thought the Slurp would be on special offer.


Once the job description has been clarified, the troupe, armed with sharpened pruning shears, heads for the vineyards.


Humming contentedly, our head sponsor makes herself comfortable against a vine and tries to catch some rays on her logo.


While all around them the bottles of Tulipe sprout calmly from the soil, delicate hands ruthlessly rid the bushes from any surplus bunches.


But it is not all sweetness and light that flutters here: in order to make sure he'd get through our tough selection procedures, wine commando Sander has had his picking arm decked out with a Cabernet-Sauvignon-sleeve.


At the end of the morning temperatures have risen to tropical heights. The troupe is castle-bound for a quick dip in the piscine while the winegrower supplies everyone with a round of ice-cold watermelon.



The group makes sure to stay out of the sun during the repas de midi. And while their drink starts with a W, it ends on 'ater'. They're back to work in the afternoon so their wine lust has to be parked until the soirée.


After a lengthy lunch, the vendangeurs set out in the burning afternoon sun for Le Côte, the south face of our vineyard, which yields the best grapes (and therefore the best wine).


The winegrower's lover is content: she has been exempted from all physical wine-labour apart from consumption, and is busy with the design and layout of the latest winegrower's book in her outdoor office.


In spite of the heat morale is soaring. Tirelessly the pickers move from grapevine to grapevine.


It is not until late in the afternoon, after the crickets have quieted down, that the pickers arrive back at the castle.


L'heure de la piscine. During which the winegrower keeps and eye out to make sure that his guests are equipped with the correct reading materials.



At 7.30 the castle bell strikes to announce the apéro. Castle soigneuse Christine serves home baked snacks while the winegrower watches his entire stock of Slurp vanish before his very eyes.


With a less than convincing smile the grape-squeezer tries to persuade his pickers that chilled tap water is an excellent companion to Confit de Canard. But he is received with nothing but scornful laughter.


Having spotted the pile of empty bottles, resident chicken Carbo nearly breaks her beak in astonishment: 'C'est pas vrai! Is this what those Hollandais cleared out in just a few days?!'


Shaking her head the egg princess makes off: 'Ils sont fous, les Hollandais...'


It hasn't taken long for the Dutch pickers to go native. Castle chicken Carbo observes their accomplishments at petanque and is clearly impressed: 'Pas mal, pas mal du tout...'


With great tenderness the winegrower's son Klaas accompanies one of the first picking-victims to the village doctor Boucher.
After which the green harvest is resumed. 'Take a left here!' the young grape leader directs with confidence.


Spirits are high and work is going beyond expectation. Picker Sabine has been supplied by doctor Boucher with a stash of medication that would last the average field hospital more than a month, and is picking away with gusto. 'Ça va bien!'


While the bottles of Slurp calmly keep on growing, the pickers snip off shoot after shoot.


The final night we celebrate. While Père & Fils pop the champagne (well, Cremant de Bordeaux), castle chef Christophe sets about preparing the 'Entrecôtes vignerons'.


Grilling the entrecôtes over a fire of dried grape vines allows the aromas of the vines to penetrate the meat deeply.


'Everyone got champers...?'




'Haha,' castle chef Christophe laughs when he displays the main course: 'Hollandaises aux fines herbes. They've got only themselves to blame: those little picker chickies should have worked a bit harder!'


The winegrower is all ears for the stories of the chef who took his training at the infamous 'women butcher's' in Salves.


While the équipe raises their glasses, Christophe lines up the plates.


The Entrecôtes vignerons are accompanied by a jacket Pomme de terre and a handful of chopped Echalottes. Castle soigneuse Christine has dressed for the occasion by opting for a subtly echalotte coloured dress.


The équipe has been so spoiled by the chef and the soigneuse that they insist on a display of gratitude. They have all chipped in and on the spur of the moment have bought a leaving present in the chateau shop.


This is more than the simple kitchen prince can handle. Emotions run high. Hugs, kisses and warm words. Picker Benjamin (centre in pink shirt) can barely hold back his tears. The winegrower even less so; feeling he has to match the generous gesture, he's had to part with two cases of his very best wine.


The lord of the castle takes a moment to recover from this sensitive blow and temporarily withdraws from the festivities.


Only to watch with hollow eyes as his son uncorks one after the other of his cellar's treasures, in order to keep the ever-thirsty picker-mob from mutiny.


With a sigh of desperation the tormented grape-pusher sets himself down at the table and listlessly picks at his dandelion salad.


But his suffering is not yet at an end. According to ancient tradition every picker m/f receives a special box containing the decorations of wine-tigerhood, a few of the best wines of the chateau and a sincere smack on the cheek from the winegrower himself.


However, in spite of this shameless display of flattery, it is not the winegrower but the winegrower's son that is eventually embraced in a heart warming group hug.

Gort à la Carte

Last month we shot an episode for the new season of Gort à la Carte, on the legendary Southern French fish soup 'Bouillabaisse'. We had arranged to meet fisherman Jean-Claude in a picturesque little harbour in the azure bay of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer.


'Hang on!' director Richard shouts with dismay. He recognizes this particular grimace of the winegrower and knows exactly what trouble lies ahead. 'Don't jump! If you fall in we're screwed! We'll have to wait for hours before your clothes are dry and we can start shooting again!'


The troubled cinematographer realizes too late that these kinds of warnings do nothing but inflame his pupil further and push him to the limits of propriety.


Agile like a flying fish the grape-pincher soars over the water and lands lithely on the deck of the wobbly little craft.


'You guys go ahead!' the daredevil shouts as the boat slowly pulls away from the pier. 'We're off to catch some fish!'


Jean-Claude's outdoor kitchen is a perfect example of 'Style Provençale', complete with an Asterix type cauldron.


Of course any fisherman worth his salt is in the possession of a fridge full of fish. While cameraman Joost does a final check on his lighting plan, Bouillabaisse-specialist Jean-Claude makes his own preparations.


The fish soup is bubbling away, the winegrower twirls another curl in his moustache; ready for action.


'OK!' director Richard shouts. 'Camera ready? Sound ready? Silence on set! Action!!!'


'Bonjour!' the winegrower sets off optimistically. 'We're here at Jean-Cl...' but all of a sudden the sound of his voice is drowned out by an explosion of birdsong.


It is Pete the canary, Jean-Claude's faithful friend and garden resident.
'Cut!' calls director Richard.


'Pas de problème,' soothes Jean-Claude. He glances at his watch. 'Eleven o'clock. That's Pete's regular singing hour. Why don't we just take a break? Would the gents like a glass of rose?'
'Non merci', the winegrower politely declines. 'A little early. I wouldn't say no to a glass of orange juice from your own tree though.'


'Jamais!' Jean-Claude barks. Here in the Provence we drink wine at this hour. I have an incredible rose chilled and ready to go. Made by a copain!'
'Well', the crew beams, 'a nice glass of rose...wouldn't say no!'
'Hmm alright then', the weak willed grapesniffer is easily persuaded, 'one little glass couldn't hurt...'


But how wrong he was. Amid deafening Pete-song the two frightened cameramen try to wash down the acidic brew.


Even though they attempt to keep a straight face, their querying thoughts are clearly legible in their expressions: Drain cleaner? Paint stripper? Battery acid? But above all: How do I get rid of this shit as quickly as possible?!


'Water... Water...,' sound guy Mike pants. 'Quick...'
The wobbling winegrower looks to the fridge for support. 'My voice...' he gurgles barely intelligibly.
'I can't say a w...' Unexpectedly Pete's concert comes to an end.
An audible silence fills the summer kitchen.


'Hurry up!' director Richard commands. 'Get shooting! Before that wretched bird starts up again! Ilja, pay attention: you enter stage left with that plate of fish. Camera ready? Sound ready? Silence on set...and Action!!'
With trembling hands the winegrower shuffles into view carrying a heavily overloaded platter of marine life.


Immediately canary Pete lets out a range of high pitched tremolos that nearly make the oranges drop from the trees.


'Just keep going!' director Richard foams at the mouth. 'We'll shoot straight over that bleedin' warbling critter. At least we won't need to add any sound effects in the studio!'


'Don't smack your lips like that!' hisses director Richard at the TV star. 'You know you hear every little thing over the mike!'


While the winegrower tries to explain in an incomprehensible stammer which ingredients form the foundation of Bouillabaisse, director Richard looks on with concern. In his mind's eye the costly horror scenario of additional shooting days is looming ever larger.


The excited canary does not let off. In fact its complicated high-pitched trills appear to be getting louder and louder.
'Move the sound closer and shoot closer!' director Richard barks. 'We'll shoot straight over that f***ing bird!'


But the hardened TV-tigers throw in the towel.
' I'm sorry,' sighs camera-beast Joost-known for never giving up, 'but this is too much. I quit.'


At that moment Pete the canary stops singing. In the sudden silence the groans of director Richard sound even more desolate.


'What can we do?' sighs director Richard with desperation.


'Pas de problème,' says Jean-Claude. 'I'll just feed him a bit. We won't hear from him again.'


When everyone has sat back down and all is calm again, filming is resumed.
'Okay,' director Richard instructs the winegrower. 'The soup is made of fish and it's called Bou-illa-baisse. Do you think you can remember that?'


While Pete gorges himself on a fresh bucket of bird seed, camera fiend Joost shoulders his Canon XH-AK47-HD.
Director Richard takes the winegrower's exhausted grunt for a yes and sticks his script in the air. 'Camera ready? Sound ready? Silence on set... and Action!!!'


As if he understands Dutch, Pete the canary immediately abandons his food bowl and bursts forth in an ebullient jungle ballad. With an ear-splitting gorilla scream director Richard flings down his script and starts dancing a kind of Saint Vitus dance on it.


'Pas de problème!' Jean-Claude calls out over the ruckus. 'I'll get him to calm down.'
He climbs on a chair and begins performing a strange ritual. 'As well as a fisherman I am also an animal trainer!' he announces to the director from the treacherously sagging plastic chair. 'Bird whisperer. I know how to handle this! Don't fret!'


Suddenly the winegrower gets up from his chair. His eyes have a strange, empty glaring look. Without a word he moves toward the cage.


'Get this on camera!' director Richard whispers excitedly. 'This is it! Emo-TV! Reality! Finally we'll get those ratings up!'
Wordlessly the winegrower opens the cage door and steps inside. In front of the rolling camera his hand closes around the brittle neck of the banana coloured bird. And then all falls silent.

For the next twelve months the repentant winegrower can be seen on weekends and bank holidays, handing out leaflets for the RSPCA at the local market in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, wearing a bright yellow canary suit.




You can find Château la Tulipe de la Garde Bordeaux Superieur at Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Cliquez ici for more information.

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