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  • Frances Schwabenland

Lessons From The French

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

The most famous Wine Route in France proudly reveals its medieval châteaux, colorful half timbered and Renaissance houses. Cobblestone paths lead to flowery lanes in charming villages. Alsace, France is a land of tradition and wine, offering a very unique and memorable experience for the visitor. This route was established as a tourist route in 1952. It winds through sloping valleys along the foothills of the Vosges Range which is home to traditional gastronomy and travelers along the way are invited to sample the excellent cooking in the region’s many farm inns. Meandering through 70 wine growing villages and fortified towns such as Eguisheim, Kaysersberg, Ribeauville and Riquewihr this is definitely a unique, “put it on the list” trip. (short film on wine making from the Bottom Winery)

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” On my trip to the Alsace region at the end of March, two years ago, the gray clouds and rain were constant companions but I felt privileged to be where a subtle mystical alchemy beneath the earth was taking place. Filling our senses was an exhilarating petrichor and the site of rich colors evenly lit by clouds acting as a natural diffuser. The entire wine route was on the verge of spring transformation yet one could only see rows and rows of thousands of dormant brown stalks and arched vines. Each appeared to have arms spread wide to receive the gifts nature bestows. I was in total awe when I learned that each and every branch along this vast route is pruned by hand. From December through March, there are several pruning systems employed. Two of the training systems I saw used were: Simple and Double Guyot depending on the type of grape and the variety of wine desired. The preferred method seemed to be the Double Guyot method which means that branches are pruned leaving only two n shaped branches with 8 – 12 “eyes” which are tied to horizontal steel wires in order to carry the fruit bearing shoots. There is a true wisdom and art involved with pruning. Done correctly, it will increase light distribution where the ratio of leaves to fruit bunches is maintained. It also serves to provide the control needed for the production of the highest quality of grapes. According to the Wine Doctor, “The vine’s vigor is not wasted on superfluous growth.”

Recently with the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement, I was reminded of this time in France. As we are just now re-emerging back into the world, I am remembering seeing and hearing about all the love, care and thought that went into the pruning of each individual branch...across miles and miles. One person reflects and nurtures, cutting off what no longer serves and reshaping with wire to strengthen and guide. Thought is given to what would lead to the greatest life coaxing light. The French grow some of the finest wines on earth...rare, unique, beautiful. There is such conscious thought and passion to be the very best propelling this transformative process and then they truly savor the results. During this spring renewal, may we all look within, prune what no longer serves us and allow the most light to grace each individual heart with wisdom and respect. May this reflective process bring forth the very best in us and enable all to flourish so we can all come together at one table and raise a glass with and to each other. May we savor that moment of transformation, respect and celebration.

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