Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sleeping Barrels

Cutting the ribbon
There are some advantages to being a volunteer for the Office de Tourisme in St Gengoux-le-National, I get invitations to things I wouldn’t otherwise see. The other day was just one example. The president of the OT rang up and asked if I would like to join him to the official opening of the “tonneaux couchant” (literally translated as sleeping barrels) at a prestigious viticulturist near Lugny - a very good white wine and crément area. I jumped at the chance, I thought it would be very interesting to see the new barrels in place, in time for this year’s harvest. and I am not adverse to a couple of glasses of Lugny wine. I tentatively asked if Cees could come, but that was gently rebuffed explaining that it was because I was the head of the committee for holiday accommodation, he was inviting me. Tough luck, Cees will just have to miss out on the wine.

So on a blisteringly hot afternoon we headed off into the countryside for the opening. The president of the OT is himself a viticulturist and produces some very nice bottles too. So the conversation was easy in the car all about how you make wine and why the barrels are horizontal not vertical, how big they are and so on. Many of my questions were (as usual) met with a slightly confused look, a bit like the time I asked him for a good variety of vine to plant in my garden for big leaves, he couldn’t grasp the concept that I wanted to use the leaves in cooking to make dolmades and I was not interested in either eating the grapes or making wine – ah well cultural differences are the spice of life round here.

New barrels?
When we finally arrived, I noticed that they had used the old wooden barrels to make little houses just outside the winery buildings. I thought that was a clever idea, so while we waited for the official opening and tour, I took a few photos. I seem to remember have a confusing conversation about whether it might be a bit smelly inside, but I’m not too sure about that one.

Finally the big-wigs arrived and the ribbon was cut so that we could go through to the winery itself and we all oohed and aahhed at what he had done with the old barrels as we passed them on the way to the wine making area. The wine making area was not very big. Not many people seemed to be interested in that area and what intrigued me was that I couldn’t spot any new horizontal barrels. Now I am confused.

On to the speeches – lots and lots of them, the local MP, the chief man in our département (the Prefect), our Senator, you name it they were all there and they gave a speech. The owner told us how much it had all cost and thanked every man and his dog for helping him and he was convinced that it would increase tourism in the area etc etc etc.

As it all went on, I was beginning to suspect that I was not exactly on the same wavelength as everyone else. And then it dawned on me…. The “tonneaux couchants” were barrels to sleep in and we were at the opening of these brand new wooden barrels imported from Norway. These barrels have never, and will never, see a drop of wine in their lives unless the occupants spill some in a late night binge.

After the speeches were over, I tucked into the very nice wine and yummy snacks in a quiet corner of the courtyard, trying to be inconspicuous and I sincerely hoped that everyone would put the drivel I had been coming out with for the last hour or so, down to me being a foreigner and that they would forgive and forget. As I left I congratulated the owner on his ingenious accommodation that will be an asset to the region, in a vain attempt to make it look like I had known all the time what was going on.
New barrels in situ

For non-barrel accommodation, near some barrels that people and not wine actually sleep in click here.

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