This is an exciting time in Burgundy, the period leading up to the grape harvest.
Exhilarating for those who're lucky enough to still have a crop to pick that is.
For those whose vineyards have been savagely attacked by hailstorms (often for the 2nd or 3rd time in as many years) it will be a time of hope – hoping to salvage something amongst the wrecked vegetation and hoping that next year will be better and that the hail will give them a miss next time round.
Hailstorms in July and August seem a fairly normal occurrence, the atmosphere letting off pressure after periods of great heat. But even in September just before an expected harvest a freak storm can appear out of nowhere.
The weather has turned decidedly autumnal though and it looks right now as though we're into the winning straight. The grapes are finally ripening soaking up all the sunshine after a cold spring and late summer. The sun shines hot during the day, the skies are deep blue and in the early mornings there's a heat mist that rises off the land, mysteriously gliding along the valleys. Dew drops glisten on fine cobwebs in the sunshine. This is Burgundian autumn at its best.
It's also a very nerve-racking time for winegrowers – have they made the right decision about when to start picking?
Will the grapes be sweet enough? Too ripe?
Will there be enough grapes to fill the barrels, neatly lined up in the cellar? Has the latest rainfall helped or were there so many teeny berries that it doesn't make any difference?
Are the acidity levels going to drop nicely with all this sunshine or are they going to make our life harder?
Students are back at university, holidays have already been taken: will there be enough pickers on the day?
Every year we have all the same decisions and worries but every year it works out just fine!
My husband used to make his decision and then actually leave the area for a few days so as not to be on this decisional rollercoaster. So as not to panic and change his mind when someone said "Look - your neighbor has got his tractors and pickers out, surely you should be out there too? Your vines are just next to his and must be the same?"
But actually no, every winegrower gets to know his or her vineyard plots and the way they all fit in together and individually they come up with the decision that is right for their domaine. Which is usually NOT exactly like the neighbour because their vines are NOT exactly the same. Even if they are right next to each other and if to an outsider, one vine plant looks pretty similar to another!
But that is the beauty of Burgundy, of its countryside as of its wines. The richness of the variety there is to be found here.
Variety being not so much the spice of life but a vital ingredient, as I have just learnt in a fascinating conference given recently to the ladies of the FeVB by Pierre Plassart from the INRA in Dijon.
Greater biodiversity of fauna and flora gives rise to greater resilience in the face of change and negative influences. Essential qualities for life, essential qualities for survival.
Amélie de Magenta