Our new rogneuse arrived this week, complete with numerous spinning blades. New to us, that is, after one careful owner and just twelve months on the road, allegedly. It is immediately being put to good use, trimming the rows of vines after a team of mostly seasonal workers, or saisonniers, have lifted all the vines up through the training wires. Our old machine could just about cope but it’s seen better days, not least during our first full season in 2000 when we bought it brand new. (It should have lasted longer but the both the manufacturer and the distributor have closed down, so it’s tricky to get it fixed each time it goes wrong.) We still have the really old, lethal one that we inherited but we can’t show it here because the inspecteurs de travail would close us down if they knew we still had it. Even visitors to the vineyard exclaim ‘oh my god, what’s that?’ when they peer inside the tractor shed (all part of the longer, more exciting tour), but head boy Daniel is quite attached to it and, besides, he never throws anything away. I should get him on to eBay.
Using the rogneuse (pronounced ron-years, in case you wanted to point one out on your next vineyard tour in France) is a highly skilled job, carried out this week by Hafid while Daniel works on one of the other tractors. By far and away the most labour-intensive aspect though is the work by the saisonniers, lifting the branches of the vines up through the training wires, taking care not to damage the newly formed bunches at knee level.
This is the second phase, after they had been through the vineyard once a few weeks ago when the shoots were shorter. We reckon on one person taking 2 hours per 1000 vines with the first bit, and 5.5 hours to lift the branches of 1000 vines this time around. As we have over 100,000 vines, you can see why it’s a busy time. And that’s just the paperwork.
The picture shows a ‘vigorous’ parcel of merlot where the soil is a bit too rich and encourages a bit too much vegetation. With all the rain that we have had since mid-April, and then sun since mid-June, you can see how quickly the vines have grown since the first buds appeared.