Photo from Flickr/handjes. Creative Commons licence.
I find myself in rural parts of the Languedoc, south of France, with a slow internet connection and no means of uploading any of my photos. The compensation is that the weather is wonderful, and we have landed here right in the midst of the grape harvest.
The Languedoc is the largest wine growing region in the world, and seeing field after field of vines being harvested, with the leaves now turning beautiful colours, I can well believe it. We argued gently with the Frenchman who explained this to us, but he was insistent that although other regions such as California may have vast fields, the Languedoc with its many, many small fields was larger - 700,000 acres or 2,800 square km. The small fields are maintained because the growing conditions can vary over quite a short distance. Keeping the separate fields allows different wines to be produced with distinctive flavours.
Most of the harvest is done by machine, but many of the older vines are planted too close together for the machines and so are harvested by hand. You can see groups of men, mostly older men it seems, setting out in the morning with large containers to be filled. Later in the day harvesting machines move to other fields, while small lorries, and little vans pulling trailers loaded with grapes hurtle along the winding roads to the nearest cave co-operative to be off-loaded.
The result of all this activity is a wonderful scent in the air from all the grapes that wafts towards you at unexpected moments. The village where we are staying has its own cave co-operative with a constant stream of farmers from around about, delivering their individual loads, so we are living, breathing, thinking and dreaming grapes. I can think of worse things.
What I do and what I dream include thee, as the wine must taste of its own grapes.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning