As you would expect, one contact leads to another, and so to Georges.
The first phone call was a masterpiece of miscommunication, speaking French is harder for me on the phone and Georges, who has spent all of his 79 years in Rasiguères, has that southern accent that seems to mix in a bit of Catalan and a dash of Occitan. It was a struggle, but we managed to agree on Saturday morning at 9:00 in front of the Mairie in Rasiguères.
The first thing Georges did was take me over to the coop to taste some of the local wines and, as always happens, when I taste I buy. He did, however, secure a 20% discount for me, which he was very happy to point out. Business accomplished, we went out to a small syrah vineyard where Georges introduced me to his son, grandson, granddaughter and the rest of the pickers. Turned out the grandson was on the Domaine Pertuisane crew I had photographed and he wanted to know if I had any good photos of his girlfriend who was also there.
In this method of harvesting, the pickers drop the grapes in buckets which are the dumped into la hotte, the plastic bin carried by one of the workers. When full, he dumps the load into a truck, which is unloaded directly into the crusher at the coop.
When the picking was finished for the day, Georges invited me back to his house for something to drink. He seemed pleased when I accepted a glass of sweet wine and we made our way as best we could through a conversation in which he explained how the wine had been stored in oak, giving it a characteristic brown color. When I told him I liked it very much, Georges went out to the garage, drew a bottle from the barrel and sent me on my way with a bonne journée.
I haven’t written recently but I have been busy. I managed to open a bank account although I’m not allowed to have checks because I don’t have a salary. I can, however have a debit card so that should suffice. I bought a car – 1997 Renault Twingo – insured it and even, in a clear victory over the forces of bureaucracy, managed to register it.
So now it’s time to get to work, starting with evening walks in the vineyards. I wanted to revisit sites I had photographed in January just to set the scene and because I think the land and a connection to it is a key element of this story.
This is Marcel Buhler’s vineyard in January, looking like an open-air witches’ graveyard:
And this is the same vineyard today:
Sorry, took a short break there to get a glass of wine.
These are Marcel’s vineyards and he is one of the people who represents the changes going on here, in wine and, as a result, in the society as a whole. He is Swiss and came here to make wine. Why are people coming here to make wine and what results from that? Why here and now? There’s a glut of wine, who needs more? What happens to the economy of a rural village? How does it affect the society beyond those involved in wine? And what creates the passion? Because this is backbreaking work and the rewards are uncertain.
Here’s Marcel pruning in January:
OK, I’m going to try to answer these questions by talking to Marcel and others, some new to the area, some who have always been here. I’m going to try to capture portraits of the people and the village in photos and words, but keep an eye on the land. It’s old and tough and difficult to work. It’s beauty is hard, not seductive like a Caribbean beach or a Hawaiian sunset, but it’s always part of the picture.