December 15 . Winter is officially beginning in less than a week , but it feels as it was already there . Two nights ago in this area of the Loire valley, temperature was as low as minus 4 ° C, and each morning the landscape is frost white, at least the grass . It is time for winter work in the vineyard : Pruning . Here, between Meusnes ( in the Loir et Cher departement ) and Lye ( Indre departement ) ,like elsewhere, workers can be seen cutting the vine canes and occasionally burning them in a "brouette" ( pronounced "berrrouette" in the region ) that they move along as they progress in the rows . These sort of improvised wheeled burn cans are used since immemorial times all over France .
The smoke trail in the wine regions often leads to these antique rusting lying barrels on wheels . That's how I spotted activity while driving on a side road . I then took a dirt road among the vineyards and found these two workers working among 15-20 years old Cabernet Sauvignon vines near one of these historic "loges de vigne" , built at the end of the 19th century to shelter workers . I talk a while with Frederic Ortega ( the one with the beret ) about the work . They happened to work for Jean Francois Roy Vineyard ( 3 rue des acacias 36600 Lye ; phone +33(0)254410039 ) . I have been several times to this winery in Lye to buy bottles . Frederic said this weather was not too bad , even if early morning was quite cold . At least it did not rain , and the stove helped endure the frost bite . He told me that in the region on the whole , pruning was done between nov 15 and end of march . Here at Jean Francois Roy vineyard , it began december 1st and would probably last until mid-march . Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon canes are usually burned as a precautionary measure to guard against potential diseases . The barrel-stove has big holes underneath and ashes fall between the ranks . Standing near the comfort of the glowing red hot embers , he waved to show the different vineyard plots they are working on , near this loge de vigne : Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc . As for most vineyards , Jean Francois Roy plots are scattered among different villages .
Resuming work , he moved the burn can along . Asked about the pruning , he said it was a pre-pruning , a winter pruning , and that a second passage would occur in spring, to slow the new shoot and control sap vigor . Past and present collide with side by side, the antique stove on wheels, and the battery powered secateurs . The battery is this orange thing on their back . These battery powered pruning tools make work easier . A typical day like this means cutting thousand of canes, wich has to be done with hand . I heard this tool was first invented in France in 1985 , and helped prevent many muscle and joint injuries . But this is still a hard work . Often thick misty fog in the early morning, with freezing temperatures . When the sun comes through later in the day, it makes , with the heat of the stove , the best conditions for work . The plots they work on are on Touraine Appellation . Jean Francois Roy is a Valencay wine producer, and like other Valencay AOC producers, he also has vineyards plots not located on the AOC geographical zone . The carving out of the Valencay Appellation zone from terroir and soil specifics has some times Touraine and Valencay plots closely intermingled . On this picture shot from ground level ( upper right ) , you can see a big silex "pierre a fusil" stone, typical of the area . Some vineyards , especially in the Valencay plots, have a very thick density of these stones .
Jean Francois Roy works with his wife . Permanent staff includes three workers . Altogether 27 hectares , of wich 12 hectares on Touraine (near the village of Meusnes ) and 15 hectares on Valencay ( near La Vernelle and Lye ) . 80-100 000 bottles .