Now the ‘wine’ is in the barrel, but things were different back in September when the prospect of harvesting the grapes and making the first batch of wine lay ahead. I now know how not to do it.
September 10: I have had headaches from wine before; this time it is different. It’s not the result of drinking wine but the prospect of making it that’s giving me a skull-shrinking ache and sense of doom.
The vineyard is an impenetrable mess. The row of old sticks sunk from view in spring, smothered by thistles, poppies, and michaelmas daisies. Only in late May did I notice lime green shoots, as thick as my wrist, rising above the sea of flowers in all directions, waving speculatively, big leaves flapping in the breeze. From then on, the vines grew a foot a day, lunging and grabbing at each other, clawing their way up, hanging from anything they could find other than the vineyard trellis.
I’d first approached them innocently, in a sundress, straw hat, and flip-flops, to ‘tidy them up’. I moved along dark tunnels of knitted vines full of snares and nooses, got caught up and fell into thistles and stinging nettles. I sensed the rows close behind me and in front of me heard the whining hum of wasps. Some of the wasps were fortifying their head sized nests, others were travelling in and out of holes in the ground. I picked a bunch of grapes and was stung twice. The vineyard was a hostile place and I made a Navy Seal style retreat crawl back to the light, losing hat and shoes and getting my hair so inextricably tangled in something thorny that I had to cut it off.
So I have only infiltrated and cut back two rows out of many. Once or twice I have googled ‘can wasp stings kill you’, and the answers are sometimes ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no’. People keep asking if I have picked the grapes and made the wine yet, so I am guessing that it is harvest time. I don’t want to pick the grapes, and I don’t know how to make the wine. It seems that it is something I have to do and having something I have to do that I don’t want to do is creating tension.