One Barrel of Wine
One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a Church full of saints - Italian proverb.
1975. I was in heaven. I was 19 years old and had just arrived in Bordeaux for my first experience of grape picking. I’d been taken on by the prestigious JP Moueix Negociant Company which owned the then little known, Chateau Petrus – now among the most expensive wines in the world.
I cycled to the Chateau for the pickers breakfast – the traditional way to start the day. Most were families from SNCF - railway workers who had arrived from Paris - like the hop-pickers who came down to Kent from East London. I barely understood a word of their super-fast Parisian slang. Luckily Dominique, a beautiful student from the Sorbonne, helped translate.
On the table were double magnums of red wine. In my naiveté I thought this would be the top quality la Fleur Petrus, and so piled in at 7.00 in the morning! I took to the vineyards in a rather hazy state. It was boiling hot. By the end of the day I was absolutely shattered. I am too tall to pick grapes. Fortunately after a few days I became a porteur (basket carrier) - much easier for my body.
One day, picking in the Blaye region, many grapes looked rotten. Christian Moueix, who had just started with the family firm, turned up to inspect them. As a joke he was pelted with his botrytis-ridden grapes. He took it in good heart, saying it was all they were good for!
I never returned to my office job. I spent two years in Pomerol learning the whole cycle from picking to bottling which started my career in wine. Today I’m Sales and Marketing Director of Maison Sichel SA, owners of Chateau Angludet, and major shareholders of Chateau Palmer.
I have been asked to make this a regular column but I need your help. Please send in any wine-related questions, or what you’d like me to discuss.
Tracy Claridge TLClaridge@TLClaridge.co.uk