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Fri, 31 May 2013

Autumn Fragments

Autumn fragments -- snatches of memory, like shards of broken glass. A fragment only, but still reflecting a patch of blue sky, a portion of cloud, a snatch of tree. A fragile diamond, shattered on the tarmac.


The leaves are turning. Frome Road, heading into the city, is lined with plane trees, and their leaves are slowly changing from green to yellows and oranges. Dead leaves, and the spiny remains of fruit, line the pavements. A hint of winter in the air, just a promise so far of later cold.


Autumn scene


I am surrounded by lorikeets. They screech and shout, garrulous, raucous. At first, I can't see them. They're surprisingly hard to see, up there amongst the branches. Then, with persistence, a glimpse of orange or purple or yellow, a flash of green, an orange beak, warm feathers. Maybe one pursues another in a mad dash through branches, down out of the trees and back up again, retribution for overstepping territorial lines. Perhaps others join in these mad mid-air chases. But always their loud, harsh calls.


Evening. Crossing the Torrens, I see a pelican in the evening light. Against the liquid darkness of the evening river, its white feathers seem to glow with some remaining rays of lost daylight.

It is hunting. It moves towards the bank, and back out, then back in, in a zig-zagging motion. At certain points it plunges it beak into the murky gloom, and moves it through the water in a fluid searching motion, looking for fish. Its beak balloons with water. With one swift movement, it raises its beak up in the air, water expelled, any fish caught presumably trapped and swallowed. I try to see if it's caught something, but can't quite make out. At one point, I think it's moving a fish around in its beak, repositioning it headfirst to swallow it, but I can't quite see.

I don't leave until it has drawn level with the bridge I stand on.


The winter rains have come. All day the sky is leaden grey, and streetlights burn tungsten orange all day. The rain is implacable. Some leaves are still green on the plane trees, but soon their branches will be bare.

At night, the city lights make blurred signals on the wet streets, splashed with red and green, orange. The rain persists.


Autumn scene


posted at: 12:54 | path: /soporific | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 20 Apr 2013

White faced heron, evening

Heron

I walked back from the city via the Botanic Gardens. As you leave the gardens, heading towards the hospital and then to Frome Street, there is a small patch of boggy ground, a bit of a ditch. It's filled with sedges, and has water a few inches deep. It drains into First Creek, just a short distance away. But there's still water here, enough to attract a white faced heron and, a few moments later, a family of Australian wood ducks.

Heron

It is the heron that catches my eye. I have my camera, and the heron isn't that far away. Even with my lens, I should be able to get a picture. The path crosses the boggy ground, with a small wood bridge that's maybe less than a foot high. It's getting onto evening, but the sky is still light, and the last of the sunlight is yellow gold, where it gets through gaps between trees and buildings. Mostly the area is in shadow.

I take photos: the heron is a bit of a distance away, striding purposefully, hunting for food in the shallow water. I'm not sure what he's getting: perhaps tadpoles, or newts, or maybe small water insects. They seem plentiful here. It seems an odd shelter for wildlife, overshadowed by tall hospital buildings, but we're just on the edge of the parkland. The water reflects the trees, still lit by the last of the sun.

The heron comes closer, apparently unafraid. I try to be quiet, but my camera is a little noisy. Not enough to scare him, it seems. I crouch down slightly so I am less of a threat. He's really very close: just a few feet away. He seems unconcerned. There are other people a short distance off, but it seems a world away. It's like a spell: a sense of calm, me watching the heron, the heron unconcernedly hunting for supper.

Heron

Repositioning myself into a more comfortable position -- changing from squatting to kneeling -- I inadvertently strike the ground with my foot, and the heron's off. The spell is broken. He heads off behind me, across the path, and over to water on the other side of the bridge. Slowly, I move to that side of the bridge, moving backwards again if I seem to startle him.

I get more photos: here, he just has a touch of that last bit of buttery sunlight on him. Not much, maybe, but something. He heads back across the bridge, to where he was earlier, when I broke that spell. I move in closer again, slowly, trying not to startle him. After a few more minutes, I decide I should leave him to feed in peace. I have my photos, but more important, the sense of calm that you get from spending time just being quiet and watching another animal. A quietude where other concerns are pushed back, for a space. What could matter more than that?

Heron

posted at: 14:03 | path: /wildlife | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 27 Oct 2011

Je reviens chez moi

Reflections, from a distance

Well, I'm home again. It's interesting to return, and maybe see both countries (France and Australia) from a different perspective.

Certainly there's a lot I miss about France, much of it to do with the food and wine. I can't just nip down to the shops and buy a decent bottle of Volnay for €20 or so. And the good French cheeses....

I also miss the cafés. In particular, it's hard to find cafés in Australia that have reasonably priced, interesting food. There are many very good, expensive ones, and a lot that sell okay food, at a lasagne-and-chips sort of level, but nothing like France. And so many cafés here close at about 3pm. Just when I'm thinking about afternoon coffee....

Travelling through the French countryside certainly was enjoyable and interesting. I got to visit many beautiful small villages and a number of interesting wine domaines. And eating a good meal in a French restaurant still seems to be one of the high points of civillised life: good food, good wine -- but not just that, it's almost a ritual, the formula the same -- wine, entrée, plat principal, dessert -- but the details (the important details!) different.

I'm trying to decide at the moment if I have enough material to write separate weblog posts about some of the domaines I visited. Domaine Macle (Château-Chalon) and Domaine Pierre Overnoy (Pupillin) would both seem interesting enough to write about, but in both cases my visit was very short.

Oh yes, and shopping malls. I always seem to end up in shopping malls in Australia, whilst I managed to avoid them completely in France. I do have a somewhat irrational dislike of them. I think they're one thing in Australia that I'll never really get used to...

posted at: 04:03 | path: /travel/france | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 24 Sep 2011

CFPPA: Oddyssey in Burgundy

I wanted to blog about this earlier in the week, but never seemed to have time some how.

In Domaine Confuron's Cellars

Some interesting parts, and some not so interesting parts. A highlight was a visit to Domaine Confuron near Nuits-Saint-George -- some excellent barrel samples, and a taste of a 1993 Vosne-Romanee 1er cru.

Not so good was a trip to the Imaginarium in Nuits-Saint-George -- some really interesting old winery and vineyard tools on display, but the sound and light display was not very well done (though unintentionally funny...) and detracted somewhat from the whole thing. It would have been nicer to just be able to look at their collection at your own leisure. But then, maybe that would be boring for people who aren't winemakers?

Another highlight was a visit to Remoissenet, where I had worked. Again, we got to try some older wines as well as barrel samples. Older wines included a 1997 Nuits-Saint-George and a 1967 Volnay 1er cru (still very much alive, and surprisingly fruity...). Barrel samples included 2010 Montrachet and 2010 Clos Vougeot... so can't complain there either.

Fellow students were mostly Australian & NZ winemakers and viticulturalists (plus one from Chile, one from California and one from Washington). It seemed that I was the only one not currently working in the industry, which was a bit intimidating at times. I kept telling myself that I'll be working in the wine "industry" one day (I don't really like to think of it as an industry... great wines aren't made in an industrial manner).

Well, it was a good week and I'm sad it's over. But, next stop is the Jura. I have a couple of appointments with wineries already lined up, and can't wait to get there!

posted at: 16:26 | path: /wine/vintage2011 | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 15 Sep 2011

Nearing the end of vintage...

The vintage is nearly over, for me at least. Next week I'll be doing a short course at the CFPPA, then that's it for now.

The vintage isn't really over: wines are still fermenting, and will be for a week or so more. I don't think any more grapes are arriving after this week, though.

The vintage didn't go exactly as I'd hoped: I spent nearly all my time on the sorting table, and ideally would have liked to help with a number of other things as well. Still, I think I've learnt quite a bit about how winemaking is done in Burgundy from talking to people, and watching how things are done in the winery.

After the course, I'm off for a brief visit to the Jura. I worry I might get there at harvest time, which might make it harder to visit smaller domaines. Still, I'll see what I can. And I'll post more frequent updates here...

posted at: 16:54 | path: /wine/vintage2011 | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 02 Sep 2011

The sorting table...

Not much to report, so not much blogging recently. The past few days I've been on the sorting table the whole time.

Sorting table
My view

It gets repetive, but it has its interesting points. It's certainly interesting to see grapes from different appelations come in. We've already had a few premier cru sites.

So far it's been only the Cotes de Beaune, but presumably we'll get Cotes de Nuits soon too.

Sorting has been quite aggressive, we're only keeping the good grapes -- no rot or unripe ones are tolerated. From this, it seems they're aiming to become one of the top negociants for quality (again, apparently they were during the 1940's and 50's). It will be interesting to see how the finished wines turn out: I think the insistance on stringent sorting will pay off in good quality wines.

Probably more sorting over the next few days. I hope I get to see some other aspects of how the winery works, too. I'm particularly interested to learn more about "spontaneous"/uninnoculated ferments (ie., using native yeasts, rather than cultivated yeasts). I'll have to see what happens.

posted at: 14:53 | path: /wine/vintage2011 | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 28 Aug 2011

Picnics

I had a picnic lunch today. A baguette, some cheese and a terrine. All that was missing was the bottle of wine...

picnic

I thought: this picnic, although very simple, would be impossible in Australia. Why? A good cheese, made with unpasteurised milk is expensive and hard to get (used to be illegal, but rules on unpasterised cheeses are slowly starting to relax...). I might find a decent baguette if I'm lucky enough to live near a good bakery. The terrine would be simpler (though what I had, partridge and almond, would be impossible).

Oh, and I mentioned wine. As far as I know, you're not allowed to drink in public places (eg, parks) in most of Australia. Seems okay in France, and rioting has not yet broken out as a result...

posted at: 11:21 | path: /travel/france/burgundy | permanent link to this entry

The start of vintage

Vintage starts tomorrow. I am working as an intern/stagiaire in a negociant in Beaune (Remoissenet) thanks to the CFPPA's "Odyssey in Burgundy" course.

So far, no idea what to expect. I'm staying in the stagiaire's house. Accomodation is fairly basic, just a dormitory. Blankets would be nice....

No internet access there, so expect weblog posts to be somewhat intermittent. I'm looking into finding an SCP program for Android so I can type short posts on my phone and upload them.

Winery looks well appointed: lots of oak vats.

But I don't find out anything more until we start tomorrow....

posted at: 09:37 | path: /wine/vintage2011 | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 26 Aug 2011

Dijon

My weblogging continues...

Today was meant to be the day I visited Gevrey-Chambertin. A train from Beaune stops there reguarly. I wanted to branch out, and see some of Burgundy beyond the Cotes de Beaune.

I hadn't counted on the weather. Rain, thunder, lightening. Not good. Especially with the grape harvest only days away. Mildew suddenly becomes a threat, and picking grapes in the rain is no fun.

So I go to Dijon. Dijon, to see the old streets and the cathedral with the gargoyles.

In Dijon, my first stop is the first church I see -- the church of St. Benigne. A lovely, typical Gothic church, it hides a secret: a romanesque crypt from the 11th century.

11th century crypt

I descend. The first room is low and wide, with many romanesque columns. A statue of Christ, his arms outstretched in welcome. Another room: a rotunda, surrounded by columns. An altar. A doorway through to a gallo-roman chapel, once at ground level, now part of the crypt. Another doorway leads off, to more passageways. Most are still blocked, buried, yet to be excavated.

Reluctantly, I head back up into the daylight. The museum of archaeology nextdoor beckons. Here I find more treasures: a bronze age gold torc, more than 1kg of gold -- a metal more common then, oddly, than now. A roman statue of doves. Post-roman enamels and belt-buckles, intricate in their working.

The best is in the lowest level: an old medieval room full of roman funerary memorials, memories of the long dead. Early medieval wooden figures, dredged from river mud.

Dijon street
Street in Dijon

Out in the light again, I head for the Palais des Ducs. A follow one sign, only to find it leads in the wrong direction. I find another, and follow that. After walking around in circles, I find it eventually. It is now the town hall and the Musee des Beaux Arts. I wonder around, and see what I can of the exterior.

I notice another church: Notre Dame. I am drawn by the impressive gargoyles on the exterior. Coming closer, I notice portions of the portice still have some of their original paint, just faint traces but still there.

wall painting

Inside, I notice a few original scraps of wallpainting survive from the 15th century. A service is in progress in a candlelit side chapel: song fills the church.

I head for the train. I don't like to leave: there is always one more thing to look at, another photograph to take. I don't want to miss the train, though. I head on.

At the station, I can't find the machine to validate my ticket. Eventually I find it, not on the platform, but inside the station. On the train I can relax: I haven't missed it, I'm getting back in time for dinner. Beaune beckons.

posted at: 09:09 | path: /travel/france/burgundy | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 25 Aug 2011

Burgundy 2011: Pommard, Volnay and Mersault.

Getting back into blogging, finally. Some travel blogging.

Today, hired a bike in Beaune and cycled to Pommard, Volnay and Mersault. The Cote-de-Beaune is looking beautiful, with the grape vines all still in leaf, and grapes hanging off the vines, almost ready to be picked. Almost, just a few days until harvest...

Vineyards near Beaune

Stopped first in Pommard. I had a meeting arranged for 10h30 at Domaine Mussy. I didn't have a map of Pommard, so tried using my phone's navigation software. It crashed, so I had to reboot it. Thanks, Google... Got there finally 15 minutes late but luckily they did not mind.

M. Meuzard, the winemaker, doesn't speak English, but Mme. Meuzard does. We head down into the cellar for a tasting. The cellar is low-ceillinged, 15th-century. The winery was founded over four hundred years ago -- in 1646 -- and has been in the same family ever since. Mme. shows me the barrel room -- they do not use much new oak, only ~10%, as it obscures the terroir.

The barrel room
The barrel room, Domaine Mussy.

I try some wines. I try first the 2009 Beaune Epenottes -- a very good year, but still young and very closed. Needs at least 4 years, according to Mme. Meuzard. I try then the 2001 from the same vineyard -- elegant, perfumed, some evolved/autumnal characters on the nose, tannins still firm but elegant, red fruit. Mme. Meuzard says that this is their most feminine wine.

I am asked what sort of wine I would prefer -- Masculine (structured, intense) or feminine (lighter, perfumed). I am not used to thinking of wines in these terms, so hesitate. Try a more masculine wine next -- 2001 Beaune-Montremots. More tannins, but still very elegant. Good structure. Ten years old but would last longer. I forgot to try their Pommard, unfortunately. Next time...

M. Meuzard is enthusiastic to hear I am a student winemaker from Australia. I wish I could speak more French, so I could have spoken properly with him....

As I am leaving, realise I bought some wine but forgot to pay, so head back. Too easy to get distracted when enjoying a good conversation...

Head to Volnay, then Mersault. Cycle around Mersault for a bit, then see a shop called Art du Tonneau, a barrelmaker. He has a short video in French, so I go in. The shopkeeper -- perhaps M. Gillet, the tonnelier -- doesn't speak much English but gives some commentary to the video. He sells in Australia, including to some very well-regarded domaines. He kindly offers me a coffee while I watch the video -- I have an espresso.

Afterwards, I head to Volnay and try to see a domaine there. I try one first, but they only sell by the case so cannot give me a tasting. I try another, more-or-less at random -- Domaine Christophe Vaudoisey. I ask "parlez-vous anglais?", but get a non, he only speaks French. Ah, a problem. I ask for a tasting, je voudrais gouter votre vin? He doesn't really follow my bad French. After a minute, he asks if I would like a "degustation"... ah, that's the word I should have used, but forgot...

I follow him down to the cellar. I try a Volnay first, then two Volnay 1er cru. The Volnay is very good, but both 1er crus have a certain something extra... more character, more structure. Then I notice he also has a Mersault, a 1er cru also. I try this last -- wrong order, but can't be helped. I buy one bottle of a Volnay 1er cru -- 'je voudrais...' is the correct phrase, and I remember it for once.

On the way back to Beaune, I finally have the lunch I packed this morning. It's 17h, not exactly lunch time, but still...

Rain is forecast for tomorrow, and the skies still glower, threatening with grey clouds. The grapes wait for harvest. The vignerons, I presume, pray the rain is not too heavy, not this late in the year.

posted at: 19:41 | path: /travel/france/burgundy | permanent link to this entry

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