Today is cold, dry and sunny, just as I remember winters used to be when we first came to France. A good day to go down to the Beaujolais to buy some cremant from our favourite cave, Domaine Ducote in St Amour. M. Ducote arrived just behind us, back from working in the vineyards, complaining it was just too cold to work.
En route to Fleurie we stopped at La Chapelle de la Madonne which overlooks the vineyards of Fleurie. With a windchill factor of minus a lot I admired the view from the car while Chris took some photos.
La Chapelle de la Madonne
and the view of Fleurie and the vineyards. Note the church which is shown in the following photo.
The last time we went to Fleurie it was heaving with visitors but today the streets were deserted. It was too cold anyway to do anything except have a look in the Cave. Chris was looking for presents to take his family but no tourist stuff was on sale, not even a nice Beaujolais teatowel.
The church at Fleurie
We tried the Hameau Duboeuf, the wine museum which has a lovely shop in the summer, but all they had were the remnants of Christmas.
The Hameau Duboeuf…..
and the steam engine in the station yard opposite.
I like the Beaujolais all year round. In the winter when it’s closed it’s quiet and the roads are empty. In the spring the tourists start arriving and there are big wine markets. In summer it is full of life and in the autumn there’s the grape harvest. Beaujolais produces more wine than all the other Burgundy wine regions put together. A good place to go at any time of the year.
Perhaps too much sun just now?
What do you do when a heatwave goes on for ever? It was 36° again today and it hasn’t rained for six weeks. Everything’s brown and withered, the veg garden has given up except for the tomatoes, there’s no fruit, the trees are losing their leaves…
The French government gives lots of advice, mindful of the disaster of August 2003 when thousands of old people died in the heat. Motorway banners urge people to stop for a drink and to check up on their nearest and dearest. We are advised to go to the cinema or the supermarket to take advantage of the air conditioning (reminding us of time spent loitering in Leclerc while camping in the canicule of 2003).
We have water restrictions in place until mid September. No watering during the day, no car washing, no filling of swimming pools, no using water from the river. It’s hard on the farmers and we have seen the cows being given hay.
A swimming pool is an essential this weather. In our small neighbourhood we have seven. Perhaps the government should refund part of the cost as they do (although less and less each year) with energy saving improvements?
Keeping cool with friends
Forget the notion that French houses are cool in the summer. Ours goes up to 32° despite the shutters being closed against the sun. And not much cooler at night. But there’s climatisation in the car so it’s comfortable to drive around. Today we headed off to Beaujolais and found a landscape green with vines. A contrast to our golden brown fields.
Looking down on Fleurie and its vineyards
There is a chance it might rain at the weekend. Lets hope so or the countryside will be like a Cézanne painting. Hopefully come the winter we will remember the happy times spent in the swimming pool and the long warm evenings eating outside.
And we’ll look back at the photos and try to imagine what hot was like….
How many people have patted that painted cat at Fleurie?
The vendange began last week with the picking of the best white grapes for crémant. It has been perfect weather for it, dry and sunny. Then the gangs of pickers started on the red. At Fleurie in Beaujolais we watched as a continuous stream of tractors and trailers arrived to discharge their grapes.
The grapes arrive at Fleurie
It is forecast to be an excellent millésime for wine. Each year is given a grade between 1 (poor) and 4 (very good). Above that it is rated excellent. This year is a 4. The grapes are of excellent quality with the right sugar content and it’s a bumper crop. The vendange is on time this year. A warm spring encouraged rapid early growth but the cool wet August weather prevented the grapes from ripening too quickly. As the Journal says, les viticulteurs sont aux anges. Very pleased indeed!
The vendange at Varanges
We have a little vineyard next door but one to us, and this morning our neighbours arrived en masse to pick. Here they are, all finished by lunchtime. Bravo les Varangeois!
Today we went to see the Tour de France pass through the Beaujolais. Fleurie, at about 30km, is the nearest place to us. To avoid the main roads we went the back way up through the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards from where there were spectacular views of Solutré.
We took Claude who always comes with us to see the Tour de France. Just outside Fleurie we picnicked by a vineyard. We got talking to the chap sitting next to us who was the owner. He said that last year he had lost the whole of his crop to hailstones. I can believe that as in a storm at the end of June hailstones the size of golfballs fell on Cormatin.
Chris and Claude keeping out of the sun
It was hot waiting but we were soon entertained by the caravan with girls hurling small gifts. I can report that being hit by flying bag of haribos really hurts! The little boy next to us collected bags and hats and sweets and keyrings…. We all got a present from Vittel as everyone got sprayed with water.
The kids wave and shout to get gifts from the caravan
Then a succession of team cars and motorbikes. The VIPs passed overhead in helicopters. Finally the cyclists came by, or what was left of them.
- Cheering on the French
I can’t imagine what it must be like to ride all afternoon in such a heat. And tomorrow will be even hotter. Bravo to all the French riders who are doing so well.