The darling buds of April

Vine in bud
The English word ‘burgeon’ comes from the French bourgeonner ‘to bud’. April is the burgeoning time in the wine calendar as all over the vineyards of France the tightly overlapped immature leaves of the vines are unravelling in the spring sunshine. My own little vine, planted to inaugurate this new project, has begun to shake itself back to life again after its long winter sleep. What project? A book: currently just a collection of bonnes adresses, wine notes and this blog that should burgeon into a guide to the French wine-makers who offer tourist accommodation – their gîtes and chambres d’hôtes and of course their award-winning wines.
From the most grand châteaux to the family houses of artisan viticulteurs – French Vineyards will be a ticket of discovery for those who want to experience a stay on a wine estate. Over the following months I’ll be visiting the best and most interesting places to stay in the French vignoble and publishing the highlights in words and pictures on this blog.  Next week I’ll be in Saint-Emilion to visit a couple of Bordeaux châteaux and taste their juicy merlot-based grand crus and then, later in the month, I’ll be traipsing the length of the Loire to uncover full bodied reds in troglodyte caves, nectar-sweet pudding wines and bone-dry sauvignon blancs.

And so back to England, where the new buds are opening too. We hear from UK vine growers that, due to global warming, the budding season is starting earlier and earlier each year. When once the hawthorn bloomed in May the burst of white flowers now occurs several weeks earlier. This might be a boon for the UK wine industry but “rough winds do shake the darling buds of April” doesn’t sound quite right.

Patrick Hilyer, Normandy, France 2008.



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