|It’s Sunday the 5th of July and the castle park is filling up with Dutch campers m/f.|
‘How is this possible?’ you may ask yourself as it is exceedingly rare for Château la Tulipe to allow any visitors.
However it is the time of the ‘Vendanges vertes’, the green harvest, during which the excess bunches are cut from the vines. This results in a smaller harvest and therefore less wine but also in much better wine.
To help us carry out this hard labour we have invited a number of Dutch grape pickers m/f.
A slightly cool start of the year resulted in a beautiful, even fruit-setting which means that there aren’t that many surplus bunches that need to be removed, and we can focus on pruning the shoots and the removal of foliage shielding the grapes from the sun.
At the break of dawn winegrower’s son Klaas sets off into the vignes. This is the first year he’s independently in charge of the green harvest.
Not a task to be taken on lightly, for we are putting the fate of an entire vintage in the hands of a troupe of strangers. Who knows, a bunch of amateurs like this might get overzealous and cut off all the grapes only to leave us with a barren field after their departure.
To prevent this and other mishaps from occurring the young team leader explains in capital letters to his équipe, what they need to do. This appears to be understood by all. In spite of the fact that picker Benjamin (with blue supermarket bag) has shown up this week because he thought the Slurp would be on special offer.
Once the job description has been clarified, the troupe, armed with sharpened pruning shears, heads for the vineyards.
Humming contentedly, our head sponsor makes herself comfortable against a vine and tries to catch some rays on her logo.
|While all around them the bottles of Tulipe sprout calmly from the soil, delicate hands ruthlessly rid the bushes from any surplus bunches.|
But it is not all sweetness and light that flutters here: in order to make sure he’d get through our tough selection procedures, wine commando Sander has had his picking arm decked out with a Cabernet-Sauvignon-sleeve.
At the end of the morning temperatures have risen to tropical heights. The troupe is castle-bound for a quick dip in the piscine while the winegrower supplies everyone with a round of ice-cold watermelon.
|The group makes sure to stay out of the sun during the repas de midi. And while their drink starts with a W, it ends on ‘ater’. They’re back to work in the afternoon so their wine lust has to be parked until the soirée.|
After a lengthy lunch, the vendangeurs set out in the burning afternoon sun for Le Côte, the south face of our vineyard, which yields the best grapes (and therefore the best wine).
The winegrower’s lover is content: she has been exempted from all physical wine-labour apart from consumption, and is busy with the design and layout of the latest winegrower’s book in her outdoor office.
In spite of the heat morale is soaring. Tirelessly the pickers move from grapevine to grapevine.
It is not until late in the afternoon, after the crickets have quieted down, that the pickers arrive back at the castle.
|L’heure de la piscine. During which the winegrower keeps and eye out to make sure that his guests are equipped with the correct reading materials.|
At 7.30 the castle bell strikes to announce the apéro. Castle soigneuse Christine serves home baked snacks while the winegrower watches his entire stock of Slurp vanish before his very eyes.
With a less than convincing smile the grape-squeezer tries to persuade his pickers that chilled tap water is an excellent companion to Confit de Canard. But he is received with nothing but scornful laughter.
Having spotted the pile of empty bottles, resident chicken Carbo nearly breaks her beak in astonishment: ‘C’est pas vrai! Is this what those Hollandais cleared out in just a few days?!’
Shaking her head the egg princess makes off: ‘Ils sont fous, les Hollandais…’
|It hasn’t taken long for the Dutch pickers to go native. Castle chicken Carbo observes their accomplishments at petanque and is clearly impressed: ‘Pas mal, pas mal du tout…’|
|With great tenderness the winegrower’s son Klaas accompanies one of the first picking-victims to the village doctor Boucher.|
After which the green harvest is resumed. ‘Take a left here!’ the young grape leader directs with confidence.
|Spirits are high and work is going beyond expectation. Picker Sabine has been supplied by doctor Boucher with a stash of medication that would last the average field hospital more than a month, and is picking away with gusto. ‘Ça va bien!’|
|While the bottles of Slurp calmly keep on growing, the pickers snip off shoot after shoot.|
The final night we celebrate. While Père & Fils pop the champagne (well, Cremant de Bordeaux), castle chef Christophe sets about preparing the ‘Entrecôtes vignerons’.
Grilling the entrecôtes over a fire of dried grape vines allows the aromas of the vines to penetrate the meat deeply.
|‘Everyone got champers…?’||‘SANTÉÉÉÉÉÉ!!!!’|
‘Haha,’ castle chef Christophe laughs when he displays the main course: ‘Hollandaises aux fines herbes. They’ve got only themselves to blame: those little picker chickies should have worked a bit harder!’
The winegrower is all ears for the stories of the chef who took his training at the infamous ‘women butcher’s’ in Salves.
|While the équipe raises their glasses, Christophe lines up the plates.|
|The Entrecôtes vignerons are accompanied by a jacket Pomme de terre and a handful of chopped Echalottes. Castle soigneuse Christine has dressed for the occasion by opting for a subtly echalotte coloured dress.|
The équipe has been so spoiled by the chef and the soigneuse that they insist on a display of gratitude. They have all chipped in and on the spur of the moment have bought a leaving present in the chateau shop.
This is more than the simple kitchen prince can handle. Emotions run high. Hugs, kisses and warm words. Picker Benjamin (centre in pink shirt) can barely hold back his tears. The winegrower even less so; feeling he has to match the generous gesture, he’s had to part with two cases of his very best wine.
The lord of the castle takes a moment to recover from this sensitive blow and temporarily withdraws from the festivities.
Only to watch with hollow eyes as his son uncorks one after the other of his cellar’s treasures, in order to keep the ever-thirsty picker-mob from mutiny.
|With a sigh of desperation the tormented grape-pusher sets himself down at the table and listlessly picks at his dandelion salad.|
But his suffering is not yet at an end. According to ancient tradition every picker m/f receives a special box containing the decorations of wine-tigerhood, a few of the best wines of the chateau and a sincere smack on the cheek from the winegrower himself.
However, in spite of this shameless display of flattery, it is not the winegrower but the winegrower’s son that is eventually embraced in a heart warming group hug.