The picking of the Pineau d'Aunis took less time than "usual", the difficult weather conditions of 2012 (particularly in the Loire region) having resulted in much smaller volume of grapes. The 40+ vintners who had come in person with their bucket and shears to help Nathalie Chaussard gathered outside the chai in the early afternoon. They first helped prepare the press, load the grapes and plan for the following stages. It was decided to make a rosé of it and not a red, because of the not-perfect conditions of the grapes. Nathalie had here around her the best experts she could dream of, all being seasoned vintners in the Art of natual winemaking. They cleaned the crates and let the place spotless before joining the tables and popping up bottles. I had here such good wines, both white and red, it was crazy, and as these bottles and magnums were coming straight from the respective cellars, they often didn't have an identification label, so I just remain with the pleasure to drink these unidentified wines... The word was that Nathalie wouldn't have anything to do, so they had brought terrines, saucissons and other delicacies. They were all here together for Nathalie and Christian Chaussard and this day would be as warmful and joyful as when Chau-Chau was still around. In the vineyard, they were all scattered between the rows but here all these artisan vintners, who would individually attract crowds in any tasting event, were grouped and it was a strange feeling to pass them and listen as they were chatting and joking themselves without outside interference. This was a private event and to some extent, I could understand that day how close they are from each other.
There was also a small froup of young freewheeling pickers who were beaming a feeling of freedom and fun, here were other "surfers" like the ones I met in this Burgundy harvest recently. There seems to be lots of young people like these, enjoying the seasonal ritual of picking together across the country. One of them told me he was doing this type of harvest picking, plus fruit picking, and he worked during the ski season in restaurants in the Alps. This left him with lots of time to travel the rest of the year.
Pic on left : Nathalie at the press, Didier Chaffardon in the background.