Happy Valentine's Day to you. I hope you're having a wonderful day surrounded by love. Here in Roujan it's a bitterly cold, but sunny Sunday, so we're within 3 metres of a roaring log-burner watching the Winter Olympics. Ali's shocked as it was a very muggy 36 degrees when she left Western Australia earlier this week. I drove through thick snow on the road to Toulouse Airport to pick her up, but the snowploughs and salters had done an excellent job, so it was pretty clear on the return journey.
I'm praying the temperatures will rise over the next two weeks. We're expecting our lovely team of volunteers at the end of the month and the work will pass so much more sweetly if we're not battling freezing winds. Each year we advertise for volunteers and unbelievably we get takers.
They pay to get here and they offer their labours for a week. In exchange we make them work like Trojans in the vineyard, cook gigantic meals, and suffer fairly spartan conditions in our under-heated house. But amazingly it all gets done with spectacularly good humour and we laugh all week long. People get fitter, happier, and sometimes fatter and they leave the vineyard looking stunning. We simply can't thank them enough. Meanwhile, Kit the dog won't be wearing her new Australian coat. It's a bit on the tight side so she obviously feels ridiculous.
If you ever think of importing a car to France, forget it. It's a squillion times easier to buy one here, even if second-hand cars do cost the absolute earth. I've finally managed to get the paperwork together for my Mum's old car which now lives here. This is the pile of paperwork that's just gone off to the authorities.
Tomorrow we're hoping to finish the very last of the pruning in the vineyard. That'll be around 5500 done - each tended by hand. I actually love the pruning as it really is the time when you kick off the wine-making year. As you approach each vine you think about the wine you want to produce, trying to find the balance between quantity and quality. Last year we made a mistake which cost us dear later in the year. There were extremely violent winds during last Spring and we lost at least a quarter of the long young shoots to the gusts. Only subsequently did we hear that the locals say that you should leave enough for the wind when you prune. Our Grenache and Carignan is particularly vulnerable as it's in an exposed position at the top of our land on the side of a big hill. I'm not going to make the same mistake again.
Last year's wine is coming on very well. We're hoping to bottle at the end of April and we're currently talking with a wonderful ( and famous!) designer about preparing us some labels. More news later. The labels we codged together last year were amazingly successful, so we'd like to keep a mixture of the sacred and profane if we can. Who knows. Better ideas may come.
We have a new booking system on this website and it's working very well. In the past potential guests have had to engage in an e-mail dialogue with us, all of which took time, especially with differing time zones involved. Now enquirers can see immediately if their chosen room is available for the dates they want, and can book, pay the deposit, and have the stay confirmed without waiting for us to respond. As a result our bookings are already up on last year, which makes us very happy! So if you're hoping to come to Le Couvent this year, why delay? Go on, it'll give you something to look forward to.
Meanwhile, I'm off to watch the Italy vs England rugby match.