After an early hearty breakfast, we set out for the vineyard. We arrived to find lots of people already there, including our friends who we had supper with on Friday. We all walked towards the designated vines and were given secateurs and instructions from Bertrand, the owner.
It was a beautiful, sunny, September day and we soon got into the rhythm of picking, emptying the grapes into buckets and moving down the row of vines. Talking to other pickers, we discovered some were neighbours, some customers and friends, and were French, English, Dutch, Danish, American. More and more people arrived to help and we finished the plot within two hours. All the grapes were tipped into trucks and taken back to the buildings to be processed. The grapes were tipped onto a de –stalking machine, then picked over on rollers then crushed before being blown into the vats.
We were offered glasses of wine from Chateau Guilhem, and stood chatting in the sunshine, listening to a jazz band.
Preparations for lunch were taking place on the lawn. Teams of waiters were setting up vast tables of food and towers of glasses, the like of which I had never seen before.
On closer inspection, the tables contained platters of oysters, escargots, charcuterie, salads and mountains of bread.
Bales of straw were placed around for people to sit on. We noticed that the regulars had brought their own chairs and picnic tables and were in prime positions close to the food and wine. We watched and waited our turn… Seeing our French neighbours returning to their seats with plates piled high with oysters, escargots, meats and bread, we politely held back and just had meats and salads. Wine was unlimited and we noted that our neighbours had all asked for the best red, Clos de Blason which is superb. As it was hot and sunny, we favoured the rose which is perfect for a summer day.
The sun shone, the jazz band played, glasses clinked, the murmur of French voices and with the Chateau in the background, it felt like being on a film set –almost unreal.
Thank you Chateau Guilhem, for fantastic wine and an unforgettable experience! Hope to see you in 2015.