Night Walk Magic
Extract from Saving our Skins by Caro Feely
If you enjoy reading the extract below come and experience it for yourself this season – See our detailed outline of unmissable Saussignac events.
I set off for Saussignac, following the serpentine route that swept up to the village alongside our vineyards, feeling delicious, free and wild. Sean had given me a pass for the ‘Randonnee Nocturne’, a night walk organised by our local village syndicat. I ran, skipped and twirled intermittently from sheer joy, the warm air like a caress on my skin and the landscape filling my eyes and soul. It was my first night out alone in more than three years.
A journalist described Saussignac as a ‘quintessential charming French village’ and it lived up to the description that evening. The massive stone castle built in 1591 that formed the central feature of the village was bathed in sunlight; my friend Laurence’s roses, a riot of scarlet in the front garden of the chateau, threw clouds of perfume into the air. Opposite, on the main square, a crowd chatted in front of the Lion D’Or restaurant. I spotted a few people I knew and caught up on news, and then we were off, two guides in fluorescent jackets setting the pace at the front and two more bringing up the rear.
From Saussignac village we crossed the ridge to the west above the Dordogne valley, the sunset highlighting the contours of the vineyards, creating an impressionist palette of greens and yellows that followed the hillside off the Saussignac plateau. Below us the patchwork of vines, plum orchards, forests and old stone buildings was tantalisingly flecked with gold by the setting sun.
Very quickly, even those who didn’t know each other were chatting as we walked. There was something different, exciting, almost dangerous about a night walk. Monique, one of the guides, pulled in alongside me and struck up a conversation about what we were doing in our vineyard. She heard we were not only organic but biodynamic. Word got around fast in a small place.
‘Organic plus’ or biodynamic – the way we work – consists of two key parts: working with the calendar of the earth’s position in relation to the moon and cosmos, and homoeopathic-like preparations or treatments for the soil and plant. Pliny the Elder said the moon “replenishes the earth; when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when she recedes, she empties them.” Scientifically, this is explained by the moon’s gravity. Before wristwatches we told the time via the sun, moon, and stars and were more connected to these bodies as a result. They determine much of what takes place on earth; but many of us have lost touch with them and with nature itself, living in a world of concrete and light pollution, and find these ideas hard to swallow.
We turned along the high vineyard path running towards Razac as the sun dropped below the horizon. Seeing Monique nod her head at my brief explanation, I continued.
‘The moon moves the oceans; it has a major influence on water, so the moon’s phases influence the way plants grow through the different levels of moisture in the environment and in the plant. Not only water but wine as well. We have found such simple actions as racking our wines – taking the clear wine off the sediment – on a descending moon rather than an ascending moon minimises the need for fining agents to clear the wine later on. It’s the moon’s gravitational force at work.’
Monique nodded again. She seemed comfortable with everything I was saying. In the last evening light a field of wild flowers, a mass of colours that begged to be painted punctuated the view of the village of Razac ahead of us.
‘We use stinging nettles macerated as a soil fertiliser or dried and made into tea as a leaf spray to help the vine keep the mildew where it should be – on the ground rather than on her leaves,’ I continued.
‘Tiens, that’s what I do in my garden,’ said Monique.
We walked and talked for a while longer then Monique strode off to attend to her guide duties. From that day we greeted each other with warmth, as though we understood each other deeply in spite of not knowing many everyday details about each other.
We turned back towards Saussignac, the village floating enchantingly in the distance, lights twinkling. Soon moonlight and a few torches, brought by the well-prepared were all we had to see our way.
As we turned onto the last section of the walk, a grass path surrounded by moonlit vineyards, a small, white haired man dressed in simple clothes and a beret stepped into the clearing just ahead. We slowed. He began to play a classic French bistro tune on the accordion slung over his shoulder, binding us together with the magic of music. When he stopped we burst into applause and he treated us to another. It was pure joy.
For the last kilometre, buoyed by the impromptu outdoor concert, we floated down the track, walking on air that was velvety smooth and warm. At Saussignac castle, tealights flickered on the steps lighting the way into the enormous stone hall. Settled at a long table surrounded by new friends I was served a glass of merlot. The folks around me said the wine was ‘très bon‘ and I owned up that it ours. For all the trauma of our first few years, we had produced something worthy of praise.
Other winegrowers’ wines were on the table and I liberally tasted my way through them as we munched on onion soup sprinkled with grated cheese and croutons. At the stroke of midnight a large slice of apple tart with a glass of Saussignac dessert wine was served. The unctuous apricot compote flavours, similar to Sauternes but better complemented the tart perfectly, a grand finale.
Walking back alone in the dark I took in the quiet, the sky like a black velvet dome studded with diamonds above me. The house was fast asleep. I climbed the steps and fell into bed, exhausted but thoroughly rejuvenated by my soirée insolite.
Join us for the Magic Night walks in Saussignac in 2019- they are set for Tuesdays 23 July and 20 August. The Wine Lodge is available 20-27 July and 27 July-2 August. 10% off if you book 1 week (the gold trophy offer) and another 10% off (-20% total) if you book both weeks.)
See our detailed outline of unmissable Saussignac events.
We would love to see you in Saussignac! See the video of the accommodation at Chateau Feely . Come and learn more about organic farming with a visit to Chateau Feely in South West France ; stay with us or do a multi day course or multi day tour . You can read about the story of our organic farm the series includes three books Grape Expectations; Saving our Skins and Glass Half Full by Caro Feely. Join our mailing list to receive our seasonal newsletter, wine school, events, wine pairing, recipes and more info on this topic at the bottom right of this page.