A Good Year
So as the year draws to a close one finds it hard to not reflect on what has been accomplished or not as the case may be. Of course the last day of the year is just another moment, a slice of time that continually sweeps along and is really no more significant than any other moment, for most people at any rate. Perhaps amongst the few people who rightly measure what they have achieved in a calendar year should be wine makers because for them each year, each vintage is different and for fine wine makers they are judged vintage by vintage.
A Good Year was a film about loosely centred upon a vineyard and a year in some people’s life. Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard headed up the film but I think Albert Finney rather stole the limelight. For some reason, I always seem to remember lines that he delivers: “Welcome to Scotland” in the last Bond film and in A Good Year his comments upon Bandol: “I once remember a Castilian prize fighter collapsing after just a single glass of Bandol. Of course my knee connecting with his testicles may have been something to do with it.”
A feel good film, A Good Year certainly made many people I’m sure, myself included, yearn to throw it all up and go and live the life of a wine maker in Provence. A friend of mine, a Scotsman, a long time ago bought a vineyard down in Gaillac. A medieval fortified manor house perched on a solitary hilltop. The house, it was practically a castle, had been abandoned because of subsidence and it looked set to slide off the hillside but my friend purchased it and brought in a specialist who set about managing to stabilise the subsidence and then year by year my friend began to restore the Chateau. He made wine each year too. Quite often the red was quite ordinary but I clearly remember one particularly good year. What was so refreshing was his appraisal of each vintage. Ask any vigneron in Bordeaux or Burgundy what they think shortly after the harvest and they will enthuse about certain aspects of the vintage. Even in a terrible year they will find some spin to up-sell their wine. My friend in Gaillac was always brutally honest. One year it was; “the rain did us this time.” Another year it was “the flowering was bad and the sun wasn’t up to much”. But I remember one glorious late summer afternoon after the last of the grapes had been harvested and I asked him what he reckoned. His answer, with a grin, “A very good year.”