I was attaching wood to wires in the Jura when the time-warp formally known as 2020 caught up with me. Just like that life was cancelled. Times were gravy and we cooked a lot of stock. Summer appears to have come and gone but I only noticed a few days ago when reality sucked me back out.
If you’ve never time travelled before, trust me when I say the exit is the disorientating bit. When is ‘today’? How to figure out much time has passed since you’ve been away? If you’d like to know how it feels, shut your eyes and spin a few times on the spot. Point the direction you were facing when you started. Now open your eyes.
Judging by my stress levels (high), bank balance (low) and preparations for harvest (close to zero), I’d like to think I’ve been let back out where things broke off in March. That there was still time. That everything would be fine. That this year I’d feel prepared before the yeasts eat all the sugar and the grapes turn into wine.
Except there’s not, it won’t and I don’t. I am my number one enemy, second only in ruthlessness to the unrelenting approach of harvest 2020.
For many of my friends, the mad rush against sun and sugar levels and sleep deprivation has begun. And early: two weeks in advance of where I worked last year (in both the Loire and Ardèche) and a lifetime too soon for me. I’m still looking for a press.
If 2020 was a bad year to order bottles that would never arrive from Italy then it definitely wasn’t the year to move house. But we did: lock, stock, cat, tanks and barrels thirty-one days before harvest, at which point one no longer counts in months. But carpe diem quam minimum credula postero: we’re Auvergnats now. We’ve got a pear tree and a landline and even though I now dream in lists in CAPS, I am loving living in a climate where I won’t combust just because I’m wearing pants.
This is also the first vintage we’ll have everything we never had, by which I mean four walls, a tap and a cement floor. So why am I stressed AF even though I know I managed with nothing before? Things worked out fine the year we could just about fit a leaky tank behind a broken fridge in a shed without running water, insulation or a door; as well as the next when I got by with one working leg, the help of friends and to help keep things level, the ancient cow patties that scattered the cow barn floor.
It’s probably disappointing to read this far only to be fobbed off with classic fable stuff: “Girl learns having everything does not make everything perfect.” But right now, having less doesn’t seem as bad as spending €1,057,32 on plastic caisse. And as someone with commitment issues, I’m finding it difficult to covet something made of as many tonnes of iron as our yet-to-be-found-press. Oh and p.s. if anyone can help, I’m also still looking for six barrels and a transpalette.
I’m sure setting up a cellar can be fun, but I’m just being honest when I say I don’t want to grow up. I love harvest, this’ll be my sixth year, but given the chance I’d jump ship and work for someone else. To just do what I’m told then get drunk. I was quite happy in my never-never land. But even better than picking grapes is vinifying. The process of turning fruit and energy into wine is addictive. And as there’s a first time for everything and the only place to start is the beginning, I say hello harvest 2020! I’m not ready, but who knows if I ever will be.
Even if there’s no press, we’ve got feet. Life’s gravy.