Posted by: kathandroger | October 2, 2015


All the fruit this year has been good. We can’t possibly eat all our apples, and at one stage I had planned to build a press to make some cider. Lots of effort it seemed, and the result comes at the wrong time of year for quenching the relentless thirst of summer endeavours; I’ll stick to my home brewed beer for that. The grapes, however, needed more thought. We have only a few vines, clambering along our border walls, but they have all done well this year, and there are far too many to eat. In the past the farm had its own vineyard up on the hill behind us, and the grapes were pressed in what is now our smaller gite with a hose passing directly into the large cellar where the wine was made. Apparently it was well known locally and sold to the villagers here. Sadly the old press is no longer in working order, although we removed it and I have made it into a feature in the farmyard.IMG_3230Our small harvest would look small in that great thing, and the results just don’t justify such a grand machine. Luckily, our cheap foreign labour is here at the moment,( Kath’s parents), and Ann and Tom are willing and happy grape pickers. Off they went, with a jolly song and big baskets to gather the crop. In no time enough was picked to fill a wheelbarrow, and it was then up to the winemaker to do his business. Now we live in a wine producing area, it is cheap to buy, and tastes lovely. What point was there to making a bodgeup of the process and making a couple of bottles of rubbish? But it did look fun to crush all those lovely soft fruit. The solution was to make grape juice in my beer making kit. The grapes were put in by the handful and crushed with a thoroughly cleansed fist, mingled with breaking up the fruit by hand. The problem is that the skins tend to block the outlet tap, so a rough guardIMG_3228 was made from some old plastic netting, and the resulting stream was passed through Kath’s kitchen sieve. We ended up with about 25 litres of grape juice. To make wine it is not necessary to add yeasts, as there are plenty already on the fruit, and they start to work very quickly in warm weather. That was the first mistake; we kept the juice overnight in the big beer container, and by the morning it had already started working and the juice tasted tingly, but still good. It went straight into the freezer then, in plastic container bags, and the result is brilliant. It was only the bottom layer which had started fermenting and the rest is clear, sweet and refreshing. The second mistake was to not wash my arms well after the mashing process. Grape juice is very sticky stuff, and when fishing in the evening (yes, I caught nothing again!), it was a real pain to have fish flies, hooks, and various bits of clothing attached to my forearms! Oh, and I also spilled some onto the kitchen floor, which ignited the wrath of the Boss and the use of the steam cleaner.

We went on our club bike ride yesterday, and ended up in the vineyards around Chinon. The harvest is in full flow there, probably about half done, and it was interesting to see the mix of hand picking and machine and the same time. I have no doubt that the machines are quicker and less labour intensive, but there seemed to be a spirit of enjoyment amongst the pickers. I really don’t know if there is any difference in the quality of the wines between the two methods, but I do like to think that my wine has been made from grapes picked by a happy band of workers!


  1. A good fruit year always finds me exhausted and fed up with dealing with fruit by grape harvest time. There doesn’t seem to be much you can do with grapes after you’ve eaten your fill of them fresh, other than juice them or make grape jelly. Fortunately Simon is capable of eating vast quantities of grapes. I still have to pick them though.

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