It’s raining!

Proper rain, something that will soak more than the first centimetre of soil.  Yes, I know it is a little strange for an English person to be excited about it raining in the south of France – or even many French people, for that matter; we all have short memories when it comes to drought and the approaching summer holidays.  But right now, several thirsty looking vines are drinking their fill and saving themselves, especially the « babies » which were planted in March and have yet to develop the deep roots that will see them through in later years.  As the adult vines drink, so the grapes will swell, and there is still time to develop the sugars and concentrate the flavours,  before we harvest them next month.  The harvest potential is looking very good.  Right now, Pierre is fast asleep, but he’ll be out in the morning, smiling at the pluviometre.

It will also be a test for the concrete that we just re-laid outside the cave.  If we haven’t got the slope right, it could be a bit soggy in there in the morning; in which case, no one will be smiling…I might just go and take a peak.

An evening at Arthur’s

Our first launch in Paris, in June!  Better still, in a real café Montmartrois.

Welcome to Arthur’s place, La Cave Café, 134 rue Marcadet.

You will find it in North Montmartre, which our Anglo American friends, Andrew and Angela, are busy renaming « NoMo ».  It is they who introduced us to Arthur, an American who has found himself a piece of Paris that is like a village for the people that live and work there; although you can still see the occasional tourist with his head in a map, looking for the way to the Sacre Coeur, or the nearest metro.   The film school is not far away and there are flourishing businesses in all directions.  Whilst Arthur may have a better selection of beers than your average bar, and one or two dishes on the menu may have their origins further afield, Arthur’s place is resolutely Montmartrois and he stocks a fine collection of vin naturels, and other wines, which are served by the glass, carafe or bottle.

The café sits on old wine caves, which Arthur intends to transform, to accommodate his growing business.   You can still see the original manual wheel hoist, tucked into a glass cupboard in the bar, which Arthur uses to descend his stock.   The building has a « lived in » appearance, which complements exactly the ease with which the regulars take their usual places, either in the bar or the restaurant area, and impose their demands on his improvement plans, to retain the essential character of the place.  The clients come in waves, all day and night, doted on by Arthur’s associate Yvonna and her team.  It is not difficult to see why people come back.  The pavement tables outside fill quickly.  Even though the café sits at the centre of a star of roads, the traffic does not oppress the atmosphere.

Occasionally there may be a musical treat, announced on the café’s website, but this evening, we take possession of the table bar by the kitchen.  A few poster sized photos adorn the windows and walls, to bring a little of our southern paradise to the big city and to announce that our wine can now be found on sale inside.  Pierre starts to tempt the café clients with a little glass of rencontre, and then l’hédoniste and éclat.  Some regard curiously from afar, others are less timid, and start to chat with us about life in the village around us.  We show them our photos to explain our vineyard, the influences of the neighbouring garrigue and the Mediterranean sea, and the way that we share our tasks during the year.  Tales of the harvest atmosphere, the most intense period of the year, are relived with those who have been there to help us and to celebrate with us – for a harvest is surely a celebration of the year’s efforts.

The conversation flows a little more freely, as the time and the glasses go by.  People begin to give us their impressions of the wines and their preferences, encouraged by another tasting.  A few more are convinced to join in.    Some remain attached to the fresh dryness of rencontre, others are surprised to discover a vin doux naturel that pleases them; nothing like their memories of syrupy heaviness.  They are equally surprised to discover that the subtle flavours deliver such a strong wine – we warn people that 15% demands respect!  Not everyone can be tempted to try something different, and we are not there to force anyone, but it brings a twinkle to the eye of a lady pensioner, as Pierre offers her a glass.

We are happy to receive the support of more friends and family, who are equally happy to discover a district unknown to them.   Some are particularly happy to discover the food served by the café, and indulge themselves in real American sized cheeseburgers – I can personally recommend them!  Other dishes on the menu appear on neighbouring tables and look equally appetising.  It seems that quite a few clients have their favourite dishes.

The night rolls on and we find ourselves absorbed into the cafe bar and its habitués; profiting from a comfortable feeling of acceptance and belonging and an easy rapport with the characters that fill the place and make it what it is.  It is difficult to tear ourselves away – but tomorrow we must prepare for another tasting on the outskirts of Paris.  We say our goodbyes just as the latest and last wave of clients arrive in the early hours of the morning.

When we return a few hours later to collect some things and discuss the evening with Arthur, we already recognise the people that have arrived for their morning coffee and say hello.  It was a good evening and a great way to start our conquest of Paris.  We hope that we have convinced Arthur’s clients – he tops up his stock that morning, following the evening’s responses.  We look forward to our next visit, so that we can say hello to everyone again and recount new tales.  And one day, when Arthur’s companion Eva can drag him away, we hope to repay the hospitality in the south.