grapes

In Search for a Harvest Date

A harvest date has to be found. Yet the grapes seem to be unusually pinnikity in agreeing such a date. I have been through similarly indecisive situations with friends where weeks go by and no ‘mutually agreeable date’ materialises, but with grapes?

A change in existence awaits the grapes when our scissors approach, this is clear. But what is it they want to maximise on before that date? Three extra weeks of playing ‘Grand Theft Grape-o”, that they would not have had if the ‘grape pregnancy test’ had displayed ‘RIPE’ now? Or are they on the brink of offering up THE solution for the financial crisis, with Merkel travelling to a distant vineyard to hear them out?

Or are these just made-up excuses? Reminiscent of how friends might cancel on you (sorry, we can’t make next week, our babysitter broke his leg demonstrating how to jump into a puddle)… And the real reason…. could beeeeee…. that … sugar levels are yet too low…. and acid levels are yet too high….. (like in 2010)?

measuring sugar levels last weekend: 60 is not enough. Plus: it tastes of vertjus!

measuring sugar levels last weekend: 60 is not enough. Plus: it tastes of vertjus!

You decide. Admittedly, the picture offers a clue. Yet, as I wander through the rows, I sense there is some communication happening between the grapes: Exciting! –  I give them the benefit of doubt, thinking they want to communicate with me, let me know, genuinely, genuinely, why there’s nothing ripe in sight, with October looming round their corner.  I picture them gesticulating wildly in explaining their thwarted efforts and it puts a tear into my eyes.

But it turns out the efforts of communicating were not aimed at me, but on keeping ‘strike-breaking’ grapes in check, if the current lack of ripeness can be likened to a strike action, in the same way London underground staff might tackle the issue of, not sugar levels, but payrise.

It appears that a section of grapes on the western side of the vineyard had shown signs of ‘going for it’ and dressed up in some ripe skins. ‘Headquarters’ on the eastern side saw this and saw the ‘days left as grapes’ diminishing. So an order was put out to bring those western grapes back in line. But since the ripening process cannot be reversed, more drastic measures were needed….

What shall I say, … the grapes on the western side suddenly looked definitely different, but not the way we would all like: they looked like they had been replaced by Matterhorn-shaped mould cones. Just mould, – nothing grape-like left in them. An unparalleled sabotage act, blatantly inflicted by the secret service of the grape-government, infringing the right to be a grape, the right to ripen, substantial grape-rights infringed in a way we thought could only happen during a detention at Heathrow airport.

How the disobedience was spotted by HQ in the first place, from one end of the vine rows to the other, and how the ‘remediating’ botrytis-poison-arrows were carried to the western end, I will never know. The vine rows flow in gentle V-shapes, so you cannot see the end of the row from the starting point.  The western end only reveals itself once you reach the middle of the row, giving me a sense of mini-achievement every time I have to put some TLC down those rows.

But if the grapes are able to overcome those geographical obstacles and developed a water-tight communication system between the two removed ends – a communication system way superior to whatsapp, twitter, etc -, then all I have to do is infiltrate this system and ‘change the ‘system’ (in this case, the willingness of the system to offer up a harvest date and thus the willingness to turn into ripe grapes) FROM WITHIN. Easy!

If I am successful, anyone keen on poking through some sweet (- as you can see, I haven’t given up hope) mess, should be able to join us for a harvest, – possibly on 5 or 12 October. We’ll see!

p.s.: And if the idea of us communicating with grapes causes concern, rest assured that we spent the weekend doing some amazing communicating, entirely grape free, with visitors and resident artists at the Freitagsladen / Kleinsche Hoefe in Darmstadt, where we had a mini-wine-stall. The recycling art, water art, paper art, retro art, necklace art, etc is still buzzing through my head: it can buzz through yours every friday 12-19.00!

Baby News

our newly planted vines are carrying grapes....

This post was meant to be called “The good, the bad, etc”, but then everyone seemed to be talking about “the [royal] baby”. The baby, in our case, is not covered in a white blanket. “The babies” in the vineyard are the new plants seven of us planted earlier this year. And the news is that they now have babies, ahhh, sorry, they are carrying small grapes, which, after all the hard work, was an amazing thing to see.

... whereas elsewhere, grapes takes a bad turn.

… whereas elsewhere, grapes take a bad turn.

That good news, however, was easily cancelled out by discovering bad and ugly news, ie seeing individual vines that looked ridden by the feared illnesses. The images in this blog show entire vines dying off or bunches of grapes that we had to cut out. The jury is still out, though, as someone told us that our vineyard looked healthy, despite these ugly images. Fingers crossed.

_MG_0123

And if this is too nature-related for you (- a friend from NY visiting our vineyard admired “all that nature”- ), you can read about “the shop” here.

Vineyard update

Our current work in the vineyard resembles a fight with a big octopus (and if you think this sounds like an exaggeration I grant you that). All these long fragile shoots (as in, the octopus legs) have to be fed into an enclosure made of wire, so as to create a ‘wall of leaves’.  A wall that will eventually be home to the grapes (blossom happening at the moment).

spot the two orange heads

spot the two orange heads

I have never tested the fragility of actual octopus legs, but the stuff or shoots we are ‘fighting’ with is pretty fragile, so, yes, there is a fair amount of swearing, if another one bites the dust.  And if we don’t break them, the tractor will: you can probably picture it quite easily how the tractor will rip off any shoots that refuse to go into the wired enclosure and instead try to crawl along the ground.  The ‘wall of leaves’ we create helps the wind breeze through, thus stopping the spreading of the dreaded fungus, and makes the spraying more effective. With any scepticism towards the spraying, bio or conventional, it seems even more important that whatever concoction is applied, it hits its targets, ie the leaves, and doesn’t just ‘enrich’ the air.

The parrots were with me for this task last weekend and seemingly split the tasks between them: Erbse was ‘in charge’ of the ground or the vine stems, whereas Marzipan preferred the leaves. While they might seem like vineyard-pros by now, they have not yet confirmed their participation in the Loerzweiler wine-festival (July 5-8, 2013).

erbse weinberg heften

Green Feather Harvest (2):

And for those of you that found the fog pictures in the last post a bit too subdued, this is how the Green Feather Vineyard looked shortly after the harvest:

Silvaner Grapes Green Feather Vineyard Harvest

Here’s a little autumn tour, starting at our vineyard….

rhine vineyard

… to the Rhine…

… to a neighbouring vineyard….

… back to the river, and….

Green Feather Silvaner harvest Vineyard

… back to the Green Feather Vineyard.

A Berliner writing on Veltliner

This post starts with a lie: I wanted to post a quick note on Silvaner, but it refused to rhyme (or almost rhyme, in the case of Veltliner, an Austrian white wine variety) with my current location, a hotel room in Berlin. And so Silvaner got ditched from the headline, a familiar fate, as this article (in German) explains (see the second half of the interview). It’s such a nice summary of Silvaner wines in Germany and how the author, Stephan Reinhardt, got into Silvaner wine, that this paragraph at least should be translated into English. Maybe it will have a dramatic effect and we’ll all start ordering these Silvaners from Franken, Roter Hang, Kaiserstuhl, etc. Or at least people will no longer think, – “Silvaner?? They must have made that one up.”

white wine fermentation yeast 2012 German silvaner

The first 2012 juice bubbling away: but a taster suggests it’s way too early, the grapes need more sun.

There is another ‘endangered species’ of German white wine, if the same author is to be believed: the semi-dry (halbtrocken oder feinherb, in German) ‘Riesling Kabinett’. In this article he explores why this amphibian (light, mixed with a hint of sweet, neither entirely dry nor heavy-sweet) is such a rarity and pictures us as readers putting in so many repeat orders for ‘Riesling Kabinett halb-trocken’ that the vintners suddenly break with old habits and drive their harvesting devices out into the fields at exactly that time when sun and grapes agree on ‘Kabinett’. As for our own grapes, their sugar levels currently stand at 65 (Oechsle), so they still have some talking to do with a friendly sun.