In France we have been suffering a heat wave. The elderly and those with infants have been warned on radio about the effects of “Le Canicule”. Spare a thought for the pickers too!
You may remember that in the spring social media was awash with dramatic pictures of bonfires at dawn in Burgundy, lit in an attempt to keep frost damage to the minimum. Many vines suffered despite this, and they were a sad sight. There were gloomy reports and long faces. But in the main, bit by bit, the vines recovered and new growth survived, though there were those who predicted long-term implications. A short harvest next year?
But things were looking up, looking, in fact, like an early harvest in 2017. Time passed and hope grew. Weather followed a more normal pattern, though on the cool side . Then at the end of June the first heat-wave arrived. It was very hot and very dry. By the end of it people were worn out but the vines were still healthy, the grapes were maturing nicely and quite advanced. However round the corner came an unseasonably cold patch. Everything stalled in the vineyards. People took out the winter clothes they had just packed away.Pickers would not be needed at the end of August after all.
All change again. Most wine-makers had gone on their pre-vintage holiday when temperatures soared. They have stayed high and there is a drought. Picking has already started in some estates.
In the kitchens, the cooks adapt to the warm weather by serving lighter dishes. Here is the perfect hot weather dessert, given to me by a wine maker in the Loire - grapes, apples, both now in season, in sweet white wine, take just minutes to prepare.
The grapes used for this are sweet table grapes, although traditionally it would be Chasselas which used to be widely planted round Pouilly-sur-Loire, making white wine for everyday consumption. Now they have largely been replaced by Sauvignon Blanc and the Chasselas is grown as a table grape further south.
FOR 4 PEOPLE
150 g (5 oz) white table grapes 150 g (5 oz) black table grapes 2 crisp eating apples 50 g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar 250 ml (8 fl oz) sweet white wine (vin doux) such as Coteaux du Layon, (or it could be a Sauternes or Barsac)
Wash the grapes and pat them dry, take them off the stalk. If there are pips, and you have time,take them out.
Peel, if you wish, and core the apples. Slice them finely.
Put the grapes and apples in a shallow bowl, sprinkle with sugar and shake the bowl to mix the fruit and sugar together. Pour over the wine and keep in the fridge till ready to serve.