A Passing Moment in La France Profonde


On a wet winter afternoon in La France Profonde the van of the Office Nationale de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) with responsibility for hunting, fishing and wildlife in general turns in to the farm and pulls up at the farmhouse door, which opens immediately.

Jean-Yves! Come on in out of this….

And the garde chasse, armed representative of ONCFS, nothing loathe, follows his host into the kitchen where the television is muttering to itself on a shelf by the door and the newspaper is open on the table.

I was wanting to see you…..but it wasn’t urgent exactly. I told the office that….

Well I was coming out this way anyway Victor….no, I’d better not have a drink…oh well, all right then, but not eau de vie…

Oh, coming to have a go at Alain again, were you…that’s a bit much…it’s persecution, that’s what it is. The office should be ashamed of itself!

Well, you know what I think about it…but that’s the job. He doesn’t have enough land to entitle him to shoot wild boar, even if they are ripping up his fields….

Wild! They’re not wild! It’s that notaire, Plouc…breeds them up there at Montcul for his fancy friends to shoot…too mean to keep his fences in order and then he kicks up when Alain takes a gun to one of them.

Yes, but you know how it is. He’ll probably be the next depute so no one wants to tread on his toes…

I wouldn’t be so sure…this guy we’ve got now, he might be a Socialist but he’s all right.

All right counts for nothing as well you know….by the time this government’s finished licking the banks’ backsides and sending guys out to die in Africa to keep a bunch of crooks in power just because they’re our crooks it won’t matter how all right he is…he’ll be out on his ear, with the rest of the party. So Plouc has to be kept sweet, according to the office.

We had a Revolution to change all that…not being able to shoot animals that were destroying our crops….

Well it didn’t work did it! Then they were nobles…now they’re politicians, businessmen, notaires… and all we can do is shut up and pay up!

They want putting up against the wall, the whole crew….and that reminds me of what I wanted to see you about. It’s those English.

Now come off it, Victor….this gun is to finish off a wounded animal or to defend myself…and whatever you think about your English neighbours they’re not wild animals and they don’t come within the scope of my duties!
What’ve they done, anyway? Complained about your chemicals running into their stream?

No, no..well, yes they have, but that’s not it.

What is it then if you don’t want me to shoot them…?

Well, when they came over in the autumn they had a friend with them who spoke some French…apparently he’s in the wine trade in London..and I gave them a glass of Albert’s white and there was a misunderstanding and they thought it was mine and the man was all enthusiastic and said he could sell it…

Good news!

Well it would be if Albert hadn’t got esca in his vines and is having to pull a lot up…
Anyway, he wanted to see my vines, so I showed him my plot down behind the sheds and he got all enthusiastic and said he could see it was organic…which is what they’re all crazy for it seems…

How could he see it was organic?

Well, it was a bit overgrown…you know how it is, with the farm to run I can’t be everywhere…
And then he asked how I made the wine…did I use special yeast, or sugar.
Well, you know, I’ve always made wine the way the old dad did…no point buying expensive yeast when it’s there already on the grapes…and I don’t use sugar…what’s the point, it’s not worth pushing up the alcohol level for a bit of vin courant for everyday drinking.

Apparently these organic buggers are as tight as a duck’s arse…won’t cough up for sprays or yeast or sugar….

Don’t you spray, then?

Course I do…bit of Bordeaux mixture left over from the potatoes – but he says that’s all right…that’s allowed.
Anyway, he reckons I could make a bomb if I advertise for people to ‘own’ a row of vines…they can come over and join in the vendange, have special labels for their bottles – whatever they like. He can organise that.

But what about the wine! Yours is nowhere near as good as Albert’s white….

They won’t know that! I haven’t worked it out yet but either I can buy in some good stuff with what they’ll be paying me….or I can just say it’s a bad year…or that organic wine doesn’t travel…
Look, if they’ve been boasting to their friends about having their own vines they’re not going to admit it’s shit…are they?
And there’s a fair bit of shit sold as top chateau wine, come to that!

True enough! I reckon Depardieu’s leaving for Russia before all the people who bought his wine want their money back!

Then he came up with another idea…and this is where you come in…

Oh yes! What’ve I got to do?

Well, he reckons organic is out of date…old hat…and the coming thing is biodynamic wine!

What the hell is that?

I’m not sure I’ve understood it all….but there’s some Austrian nutcase…


No..another one, but I expect he’s vegetarian too….
Well, anyway he came up with all this stuff about the harmony of things…you know, the rythmns of the moon and whatnot.

We all know that. You get your lunar calendar from Rustica and from the first quarter to the full moon you plant above ground stuff and from the full moon to the last quarter you plant your root veg…so what’s new?

Well these bobos…these trendies… don’t know anything about Rustica, do they! They want something exotic so they can think they’re spiritual or superior or something…
Go for anything if it costs an arm and a leg…but turn their nose up at something ordinary…

Anyway, he says this Austrian has special preparations to add to the soil….or to compost heaps.
I’ve plenty of nettles…

Well who hasn’t!

And there’s a clump of horsetail to make sprays…

That stuff!

And I can dig up the old woman’s cat to ferment oak bark in its skull as long as she doesn’t find out…
No problem for cow’s horns either… or the manure to ferment in it, though the mesentery might give problems with the way things are at the abattoir these days….

What are you gibbering about?

Well, he gave me a list. You do all this stuff then stir it all up and spray it on the soil..or compost heap..or on the plants and it’s supposed to put the vineyard in harmony with the universe.

You must be stark staring bonkers!

Well I’m not going to do all that, am I…but I need to have the stuff to show the punters!

And that’s where you come in.
I’ve got to use yarrow…well, I’ve got that along the hedge…but I have to ferment the flowers in a stag’s bladder and I was just wondering if…you being with ONCFS and all…. whether you could get me one when they have a cull…..


30 thoughts on “A Passing Moment in La France Profonde”

  1. Love it…. one of the smaller vineyards near us is into this cycles of the moon planting and what ever else you have to do. We actually have a few rows of vines at the house in Caunes….. someone has pruned them for me this year…..and I might learn what to do with them sometime.
    As usual, I’m giggling away…thanks J x

    1. They are grapes for wine…the previous owners made wine. I’ve been told we should be able to make 30 -40 bottles. I dont know what kind. I assumed they were white…..until of course I saw them start to ripen….next year I hope to learn more !

      1. It’s not difficult…did your previous owner leave you a little press?
        If not, someone will know where to have them pressed for you. The main trick is only to use the first…the oval bunches…never use the little round second growth ones.

    1. I’ve been buying direct for so many years I’ve lost touch with vintners….but from what Andre – an elderly gentleman who had spent his life in various branches of the wine trade – used to tell me you’d have to get up early in the morning to be up to all their tricks.

  2. Chortle! No vines where we are, but I bet some of this would apply to cider too, Helen. πŸ™‚ Wasn’t there a TV series a few years ago about an Englishman who spent a year on a vineyard in France and did all this biodynamic stuff?

  3. I’m just waiting for some bright spark to decide that it would be a good idea to make cider in lead lined tanks again…in search of authenticity…
    I don’t know about the programme….probably watching rugby…

  4. Hahaha! And funnily enough, a few friends have been “sucked in” to buying some local plonk, which one couple informed me was “very drinkable”…until they bought a couple of cases and took it back to Blighty. They apparently opened a couple of bottles from each case which were undrinkable, so on their next visit they took it back. The young lady (who made no attempt to taste the remaining bottles), firstly announced that nobody else had complained (untrue: other friends apparently had) and secondly initially wanted to credit them only for the bottles they had returned! I’m not sure it was biodynamic, but it was bio-somethingorother…’Nuff said. They were seen coming.

    1. What you taste isn’t always what’s in the bottles you go away with…it happened to a French friend buying from her cousin too, so it’s not just the foreigners who get done…
      And what’s put up for the obligatory AOC tasting doesn’t bear much resembence to what goes on sale either…

  5. Great piece, Bead (can I call you that or do you prefer Venom?)

    Where we are, crops are sprayed, olives cured in caustic soda, so goodness know what they do to the vines…but I expect the moon cycles will come into it somewhere – that and due reverence for the Virgin. Profound – not. (As for vegetarian….olvidalo!)


    1. Elderly neighbours hearing that someone was vegetarian whould react like startled horses…had to be something wrong with someone who didn’t eat meat…

      Bead or Vemon…take your pick…but i draw the line at Ous….

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